Courage is a many-splendored thing

I’m trying to remember the last time I showed courage.

It’s not an easy task because courage is a multi-dimensioned notion. Anyone can apply their own definition for it. What is it exactly?

Often it’s a measure of our determination and concept of self-esteem. Essentially, each of our delineations are what distinguish us from others and it demonstrates what we believe in. It’s the power of that belief over our will to participate and alter our lives; it always seems to take on the ardor of finding the most difficult path and conquering it. It’s an act of brazen boldness, committed without giving a moment’s thought to the perils that make the act difficult to accomplish.

It seems courage is unmistakably associated to belief, will and hazard. There can be no courage with risk and no heroism without extraordinary stakes at play. So, can we speak about courage without addressing loss and victory? Is courage different than acts of imprudence or recklessness? The courageous act saves a life, gives hope or is a rare display of self-sacrifice for the good of others. The person who selfishly commits transgressions for personal gain or who causes sorrow to others is a contrast to courage.

By my definition then, every resident in Caritas’ care is courageous. They are here because they’ve chosen to act boldly on reaching for a better live and to confront their personal demons so they can begin to heal and have hope. For many, it’s also a display of self-sacrifice in many ways; giving up a life of self-indulgent pleasure, of few demands and living down to theirs and others’ expectations because doing otherwise is too hard.

Every day in our therapeutic community, residents are required to summon inner strength in the face of life’s complications. Progressing forward in spite of the pain and personal risks, courage isn’t devoid of fright. Instead, it’s a deliberate resolve to act because not doing so means setbacks are assured.

Courage acknowledges the uncertain road ahead but it endures regardless. Courage doesn’t have to be a heroic act but the conscious decision to keep to values different than others around us despite the temptation to toss them aside for the sake of uniformity and safety in numbers.

The courageous man who’s fallen on hard times won’t turn to a friend who offers only refuge from the world and by consequence, encourages his old self to carry on. Rather, the courageous man seeks out the person that’s unwavering in helping him to risk himself in order to endure his suffering and work his way through it. This measured calculation of danger exposes him to annihilation but a baptism by fire leads to personal redemption. Confronting and tussling with a physical world threatening us with despondency and isolation tempers and defines courage.

The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid but he who conquers that fear. (Nelson Mandela)

By Tullio Orlando, MSW RSW

Executive Director, CARITAS