Departures: Courage

In an interview just before her death, poet and wise woman, Maya Angelou said that she wanted young men and women to know that courage was the most important of the virtues because without it, one could not practice or consistently practice any of the other virtues.  Courage, then, becomes a most important point of departure.

Where in your life, recently or in the past, even the far past, have you had to exercise courage?  Most often, in my experience, when we are courageous, we don’t think of ourselves as courageous.  That happens because even the most courageous of human beings are likely terrified while they are doing courageous acts.

So, start here:  think of those moments when you were most terrified.  Were there any of those, even one of those, where you moved forward anyhow?  That’s courage!

I knew a woman once who enacted incredible courage, but she never thought of it as courageous.  She was 5 years old.  Her father was an alcoholic.  Her mother died giving birth to her little sister.  In her 90’s she told me how, as a 5 year old she used to hunt down her father’s bottles of liquor and pour them out knowing how furious he would be.  She knew that each bottle stood between her and her family’s survival.

Courage is like that.  Courage rises up in us at moments when all the odds would say it shouldn’t.  Courage is that slightly small movement within us that tips the scale in favor of hope, in favor of justice, in favor of kindness, in favor of compassion, in favor of trust, in favor of honor.  Courage is not only the chief virtue, it is the catalyst of all other virtues.  Without it, the other virtues do not take flight.

No wonder, then, that in our language, “courage” is a word derived from two ancient words that mean–doing from the heart.

Your heart, my heart, is the central, the core, departure point.

Bob Patrick

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