My nephew, Judah, had a rough morning today. He is in town visiting and he got embarrassed this morning because his four-year-old self could not do something we asked of him. After retreating to his room for a little while and shedding some tears, Judah had to practice the most difficult of human tasks: courage.
Through tears and high emotions, Judah came in and asked for help. It was hard. He didn’t want to do it. But he mustered up the courage and did a hard thing.
Why Courage is So Hard
There is nothing more difficult than courage. After the ordeal, we told Judah that he had used his courage. He said he did not know what that word meant. We told him that courage is when there is something you don’t want to do but know that you should because things will be better afterwards.
It is so tempting for us to take the easy way out. The appeal of avoiding all pain is often stronger than our desire for truth, goodness, or improvement.
The reality is that courage comes at a cost. There is always a price to pay. It may be admitting we don’t know something, facing a fear, or acknowledging a mistake. Courage exposes our weaknesses. And the world tells us we must always be strong.
The irony, of course, is that we only get stronger by exposing our weaknesses. If I neglect my puny biceps, I won’t be able to carry heavy things. If I acknowledge its limitations, and strain it through trial, I will build muscle and be capable of more.
The hard thing about courage is facing our fallibility. It involves admitting our imperfection and our need for help.
Why Courage is So Important
Courage is the only way character develops. Facing hard things is the way we grow our spiritual, emotional, physical, and intellectual muscles.
Choices are what define a human existence and the most difficult ones are the most important ones. The best way to learn is to have the lesson cost us something, to put some skin in the game.
Bravery is vital for the human existence. As people made to live in community, being exposed is as important as it is terrifying. The people we are in relationship with cannot reject us if we duck from courage, but they cannot truly know us either.
Truth is an acquired taste. The lessons and practical consequences of goodness are not as flashy as we imagine. The hurt, just like the strain of working our muscles makes us sore. But it is the only way we grow. The only way we improve.
Judah is learning how the world works. He is trying to figure out how to be safe, how to be accepted, and how to interact with the people around him. Courage is a necessary and vital element to that equation.
Why Courage is So Human
A lot of human institutions and mindsets are established in an effort to avoid the need for courage. But in avoiding the difficulty of courage we also deprive ourselves of its benefits.
The trouble with being human is that none of us are doing it perfectly. Courage is the main ingredient in change. It is how we are refined, improved, and invited into a better way of living.
Judah will no doubt have many more encounters with courage over the years. We’ve all been through it and we will all continue to have opportunities. Courage is a daily invitation. In relating to our friends and family, performing our jobs, and evaluating our self-awareness, courage is one of the most consistently available companions. If we approach courage as a tool rather than an obstacle, we are well on our way to discovering the vast depth of its value.