Socrates, Chin, Hammurabi, Abram, Moses, David, Alexander the Great, Cleopatra, Eric the Great, Charlemagne, Odo the Great, Elizabeth I, Peter the Great, Susan B Anthony, Clara Barton, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Annie Sullivan, Mother Teresa, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Martin Luther King, Jr., Aung San Suu Kyi, Sgt. Dakota Meyer. Every one of these individuals possesses a quality every person on earth must acquire— courage. In our present era we talk more about our rights than about our responsibilities; we are more concerned about bottom-lines than life-lines for others. We have become more a people of self-preservation than of self-sacrifice.
Self-protection and self-gratification are not, mind you, the definers of all of us; certainly not of those in the opening inventory. There are still some who put others before themselves. Why do they do this? They possess qualities that others deem weaknesses, or foolish. Qualities like, graciousness, forgiveness, humility, and courage. These qualities are not often rewarded in the civic arena. In fact, they go mostly unnoticed. Acts of kindness & courage are most often done in secret; actions which come to light only at a later date (if at all).
Amidst the stresses swirling about in our postModern/postChristian society it takes courage for many of us just to get out of bed to face another day. Things are not as simple as they once were. The smorgasbord of choices and decisions we must make every day— what to do with our time & priorities, our commitments, our financial restrictions, our emotional highs & lows, our energies & exhaustion, notwithstanding the ethical & moral dilemmas we encounter, are overwhelming.
Unless we each hold some guiding principles, some basic beliefs about life, faith, and trust in something (Someone) beyond ourselves, we will be quite confounded as to how to grapple with it all. You see, courage rests on a foundation of belief, which rests on a certain realties beyond individual mere self-preservation. Call it faith in God, belief in a “higher-power,” or even a “…if it is God’s will.” Courage rarely issues forth from a basis of superiority; rather, it arises from a sense of one’s own humility in the grand scheme of things, in believing that there are powerful forces at work in our world, that there is a greater plan in place, than my own puny little existence.
In the ancient Greek Temple of Apollo at Delphi, inscribed above the forecourt was the Socratic maxim— γνῶθισεαυτόν. “Know thyself.” We would all do well to take a measure of ourselves within, before our fellow man (and women), and before the God who made us. For it is only from a true knowledge of who we truly are that true courage can take root and be called upon when the time is at hand.
Have a nice week,