Some Thoughts on Courage
I’ve been thinking.
Don’t worry. I hear you. Some of you are saying, “Be careful, don’t hurt yourself.” Others of you are saying, well, less kind things.
The really scary thing about thinking is, when you do it right, you might be wrong.
Here’s the deal.My tendency, and probably yours, is not to think the things I think are wrong. In short, we aren’t very skeptical of ourselves. So here’s what I’m thinking, even though I might be wrong. One man’s courage is another man’s cowardice. Sometimes.
It seems to me that courage is the ability walk in one direction when fear tells us to walk another. It takes courage to start a business, get married or change jobs because our heart and often, everyone around us, is saying “don’t be foolish.” They don’t always say it aloud but it’s clear how they feel. But it also takes courage to close a business, get a divorce or stay in the job you’re in. Courage isn’t always doing what other people expect of you.
Lately, there’s been a great deal of discussion around Bruce Jenner’s decision to become Caitlyn. Was he courageous? Some of you will say an emphatic no; others of you will say yes just as emphatically. Then we drift off course trying to compare his decision to other examples of courage or cowardice and we just sound silly, as if courage can be measured on some single scale. The problem is no one really has the answer to such a complex decision. In truth, I neither “have a dog in that fight” nor do I have the absolute capacity to know.
It takes courage to race into battle to save a fallen comrade. It takes courage to go through a course of chemotherapy and then wait on the scans to come back. It also takes courage to say “no mas” to another round of such treatment. It takes courage to raise a child. It takes even more courage to raise one with profound disabilities. But these are all different kinds of courage. Respecting one example of courage doesn’t mean we have to diminish another. We need not call one more courageous than another. We can be grateful for and respect both, can’t we?
But back to Bruce; or Caitlyn, if you prefer.
There is certainly a place for wisdom within the context of exercising courage. So with the proviso that opinions are like, well, you know, a certain body part everyone has, I will share a few of mine. What some people consider cowardice they often label other things. They call it foolishness, ignorance and sometimes, sin. But consider how much courage it takes not to label something. Consider how much courage it takes to “not know” and take off the judge’s robe. For just amount put down your outrage and your offense. Take a breath. See. Isn’t that nice.
You might wonder what prompts me to write this little tome. Have I been called a coward? Yep. Have I been called courageous. Yep. Which one am I? I’m not sure. I hope I’m courageous when it’s wise. I also hope I’m a coward when it’s wise. You know, like when I’m being chased by an irritable Rottweiler while I’m riding my bike. Six feet six and two hundred and forty pounds of middle aged man screaming like a nine year old girl may look a little disturbing, but I guess I’m a mixture of both cowardice and courage. Aren’t we all?