Like hospitality and welcome, courage is often something we believe we either have or we don’t. Too often courage is attached to those who run into a burning building to rescue someone or the giants in history like Rosa Parks who stood out even when they refused to stand up. Unfortunately, that sort of thinking makes courage (as well as hospitality and welcome) nouns we either possess or we don’t, rather than a quality we can practice and live into whoever we are.
This month we take a fresh look inviting each of us to see courage as something not only accessible to us, but also something we can cultivate in ourselves. After all, Mary Anne Radmacher wrote: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'”
Sometimes courage is about saying yes to something new. Sometimes it is about maintaining a boundary and saying no. Sometimes it is about becoming an ally or co-conspirator to someone on the margins. Sometimes it is about letting yourself love. Sometimes it is about crafting a new story from your own life. Sometimes it is forgiveness. Sometimes it is supporting another in his/her/their courage.
Not all courage saves an individual life or shapes history. Yet, I believe that the central task of the religious enterprise, especially ours, is to promote our collective evolution. So, cultivating our capacity for courage is essential.
Any lament we have of the present, and goodness knows, we have many, means that we are responsible to help things change. Change doesn’t occur without intention and effort. Change isn’t comfortable. Change, by its very nature, says we have to do something or some things differently. For me, that invites us to courage.
The word courage has its origins in French word heart. All of us – each of us – regardless of our native predilection toward boldness or timidity, can take steps to live in line with our heart. By that I mean, our core. We can become more wholehearted doing the next right thing. Perhaps then, we may be able to reverse Mark Twain’s regrettable observation: “It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.”