COURAGE IS NOT the absence of a thumping
heart. It is the absence of cowering. Courage is taking actions
that need to be taken regardless of how scared you are. "Courage"
is what we call it from the outside, but what it is on the inside
is simply responsibility.
A soldier in battle jumps on top of a live
grenade that has just landed in his foxhole, saving the lives
of the three other men in the foxhole with him. We hear of his
action and say it was a tremendous act of courage. But what does
he say? Someone who lived to tell about it says he was
only trying to protect his buddies. He saw the grenade first
and felt responsible for the lives of his friends.
Whenever you see heroes interviewed, they
almost always say the same thing: "I only did what anyone
else would do in the situation." They saw what needed to
be done and felt responsible responsible for their buddies,
or their mission, or human decency, or whatever.
Their courage was a result of their feeling
I'm assuming there is some task or area
of your life where you would like more courage. Here's how you
can become more courageous: Be responsible for something specific.
Let me use a few examples to illustrate the principle.
Let's say you normally feel nervous at
parties talking to strangers. You want to be more courageous.
So be responsible for something specific. Think about it ahead
of time if you can, and think of something to be responsible
You think about it and decide you're going
to find someone at the party who seems awkward and shy, and you
will engage that person in conversation and make him feel welcomed
and accepted and comfortable. Then you'll look for the next most
uncomfortable-looking person at the party and do the same.
You have a mission. You've chosen something
to be responsible for. And after the party you will look back
on your behavior and think you were more courageous than you
have ever been at a party.
Let's look at another example. Let's say
you want to ask your boss for a raise and you feel nervous even
thinking about it. You want more courage. What should you do?
Be responsible for something specific. So you give it some thought
and decide you want to raise the standard of living for your
children if you can. You owe it to them to try.
So now you have a mission. You may do many
things ahead of time to help you fulfill that mission. You make
sure your work is top notch. You can even put out resumes at
other places just to see what's out there. And you can think
long an hard about it and find the right time to do it and then,
because you feel it is your duty as a provider for your children,
you can take a deep breath and walk into your boss's office and
ask for a raise.
Your heart may be pounding. But you will
do what you have to do. You will do what you feel responsible
for. If you're going to get a raise, it is up to you to ask.
And when you're done, you'll walk out of there proud of yourself
for doing your best. That's courage.
Let's look at one more example just to
make sure this is clear. Your father drinks too much. Nobody
has said a word to him about it. Your brothers and sisters and
his other relatives are all afraid to hurt his feelings or afraid
he will get really mad, and so are you. But you want the courage
to tell him you think he should get treatment. What do you do?
Be responsible for something specific. In this case, you want
him to live and have a good life, and you're willing to suffer
(if you need to) in order to make it happen.
You are responsible now. You've elected
yourself the one to tell him. You know he might hate you and
never speak to you again, but you have decided you will speak
up anyway. So you do. And afterwards, no matter what happens,
other people may look at what you've done and say, "That
took courage." But you will think you were only doing what
needed to be done.
Don't do things blindly or compulsively.
Give it some thought. Figure out what you are responsible for.
Specifically. Try to think about the best way to approach it,
and then act. Acting with courage will give you something precious
and worthwhile: You will feel proud of yourself. You did not
cower in the face of your duty. You stood up and did what needed
to be done. That's courage.