A Courageous Light
Courage is “the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
Who exhibits courage? Whom do we look to as a role model of courage?
Many times, we search for people in history or look to those in positions – when we sometimes need to turn our focus away from a person in position, and face those around us who are exhibiting responsible leadership every day.
Anyone can serve in a position or have a title, does it mean because of that position or title that they exhibit leadership? If leadership is to be someone who exhibits moral, ethical, courageous, responsible, accountable, or role model behaviors and someone does not exhibit these qualities does that mean we still follow them. We should not always be quick to believe that because someone who is in a position or if someone has a title that they have the capacity to exude moral courage.
Instead, we should ask who are the committed citizens, colleagues, neighbors, and friends. Who are those that exhibit a leadership capacity that is undeniably moral, ethical, and responsible? In Moral Courage: Taking Action When Your Values Are Put to the Test, Kidder (2005) describes moral courage as, “the quality of mind and spirit that enables one to face up to ethical challenges firmly and confidently, without flinching or retreating” (p.72).
I had to spend some time with this earlier in the week in a couple ways. First, to role model for my students the importance of addressing the recent shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. We discussed the implications outside of facility safety and risk management protocol (gun laws, hate crimes, mental health and media). Second, taking the risk to speak my truth in a video post knowing that there is potential to upset (or lose) friends, colleagues, or family members based on the truth I choose to share. As I thought about that this week, I thought what would be the consequence if I chose not to say anything at all. I could not choose the latter. I had to speak my truth.
Courage isn’t possible without fear. Every time I speak about active shooter, my heart begins to race and I lose my breath for a few seconds. On Thursday of this week, I presented with an Elon student about strategies for educating students about active shooter. I’m still problem solving the issue myself and finding ways I can contribute to action. Out of my fear, I try my best to be as authentic as possible and actively listen before thinking of a response.
Ignite courage in the midst of fear. How do we find the courage, especially if we feel alone? For me I turn to prayer for guidance. Throughout the week with my time in the word, I came back to a bible verse that a friend shared with me during my mission trip over the summer. Micah 6:8 ignited my courage: He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you. But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? To me, this bible verse embodies moral courage – our character and our behavior matter most to God…to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly. It is a responsibility to address social concerns and to be leaders who exhibit leadership if we are in a position or if we are a follower with a goal to contribute to positive change in the world we live in.
Why is it that my heart races and I lose my breath as I begin to speak my truth? Perhaps it is the fear of how my words will sound to others and that I sometimes fear that I may endure some type of retaliation for speaking my truth. However, if I chose not to share, what does that say about my moral ethical character – how am I walking the walk and talking the talk?
Is it possible to learn how to be courageous? I believe it is possible and people in different areas of my life actually give me the support to be courageous and I hope to do the same for others. There will be times that you feel that you are alone, you sense fear creeping, danger around the corner or a difficulty arising. When I begin to feel this way I turn to God, this is why my faith is the foundation for me to step into the unknown to endure whatever consequences come from me speaking my truth. It is more of a risk and a detriment to my moral character if I stay silent.
Fear can be an opportunity to exhibit leadership or to hide away and bury the truth inside. Consider tearing down that inner wall and stepping out into the unknown.
If you weren’t afraid, what would you do? What truth would you speak?
THE FEAR INSIDE
Fear tears me down and eats at my core
No one really knows I require more
Fear flows through my body and I quiver
Daily I lose my sense and begin to wither
Fear pushes through and pours down my face
Who knows the pain I feel in this place
Fear weighs on my mind and I'm full of sorrow
I try for day to day but think of tomorrow
Fear takes my breath away and I fall
Deep down I know what I want, I can’t stall
Fear fills me with apprehension
I try to make it clear, oh the tension
Fear tells me what I truly need
My heart screams to be heard and freed
Fear teaches me courage and to be brave
I long for strength and the release of truth I crave
Fear fills me with panic and alarm
My choice I hope brings no harm
Fear leads me through pain and hopelessness
Teaching me to be true to myself and be fearless
-Cara Lucia (poem written 2012)