Where does courage come from? Is it real?
The few instances when I have acted with courage in my own life, there was no choice. A brave action was the only option available. And, I was quivering in fear. I am not a courageous person. That is absolutely true. And, yet, I have been brave.
There were times, not many, when I stood up to people who were bigger, stronger, more influential or more powerful than I. Sometimes to stick up for someone else. Now and again, to support a good or noble position. Sometimes just in defense of what I felt was a put-down. Mostly, these acts of bravery happen only after the fact, and only in my mind.
I have embarked on courageous challenges, sure. Often, foolishly naive, I didn’t realize what an act of bravery it was…to get married…to give birth…to become a parent. Almost everybody does it; their are no “badges of courage” offered to those who do, yet what a challenge to anyone who undertakes any of these things!
Is any marriage easy? It involves work, forbearance, and struggle, even when it’s going very smoothly. If we had any sense, when young and in love, we’d shake in fear at the prospect of the future we were walking so breezily toward. Even in the best marriages, it takes courage and commitment.
When I became pregnant, it was without a single thought to all the complications and difficulties that could arise. Every woman has their own unique stories of pregnancy, labor and delivery because, though pregnancy itself is something very common, it is also a very individual experience. No matter how many women have gone through it before, when it is happening to you, it takes courage!
Parenthood is something I walked eagerly toward. I had little brothers and sisters, after all. I’d been a babysitter. I’d had pets. I never imagined – maybe it’s impossible to imagine until the experience is there – how very enormous, would be the love I felt for my children. Attached to that big love is a huge sense of responsibility, and a heart-stopping fear of all the things that could happen. Though blessings and joys abound, being a parent takes courage.
There are other things that cause us to draw on our resources of courage. The more of a coward you are, the more even minor challenges take nerve. I have never been to war, but, by god, I’ve gone to the dentist! I’ve had surgery. I’ve gone through divorce. I went back to college in my thirties (which seemed so old, at the time, and so daring. Now I think, what was the big deal?). I have stood up to huge losses.
I am not a brave person. Life presents challenges; I keep going. Sometimes it’s easy; other times it’s really hard. I don’t feel courageous, but maybe I’m not giving myself enough credit. Courage might not be the same thing as heroism. Maybe, just to continue to stand up to the challenges that life presents is an act of courage. Maybe we all deserve a medal!