Courageous people change the world. So many examples of that this month. October’s celebration of LGBTQ+ history month reminds us of the many who bravely moved (and continue to move) our world toward greater acceptance and affirmation. The revolutionary prophet of peace, Mohandas Gandhi, was born on October 2. Our Christian friends celebrate Reformation Day and Martin Luther’s courage that changed how we all think about religious authority. We rightly honor such giants. The problem is most of us aren’t that tall.
Or are we?
Here’s what we have to help each other remember: In addition to the heroic acts that alter history, there are also the daily choices that prevent history from altering us! Bending the arc of the universe toward justice deserves praise, but so does the ordinary work of integrity and not allowing yourself to be bent.
We need to make room on the path for these common acts of courage. The bravery of embracing your beauty even when it doesn’t fit the air-brushed images surrounding us. The courage of calling out microaggressions that occur daily for many of us. And what about resisting the persistent seduction of status and stuff? Simply put, the list is long: Turning down that drink one day at a time. Making yourself get out of bed when the depression tells you to stay there. Holding your partner’s hand in public. Make no mistake, there are dozens of ordinary acts of bravery we embody every day!
Or maybe we should say there are dozens of ordinary acts of bravery we help each other embody every day. This we need to remember as well. Courage is not only noble; it’s contagious. The bravery that makes it into the history books may save the world, but our ordinary courage keeps each other going. Watching someone else make it through another day helps us endure. Witnessing someone else confront bigotry allows us to bravely be more open about who we are. They say that courage is found by digging deep, but most often it is passed on.
So don’t worry so much if you haven’t changed the world yet. And certainly let’s stop comparing ourselves with those giants. Our work rests less in looking up to them and more in looking over at each other. And in remembering that others are looking over at and needing strength from us.
Questions for Considering Courage
Don’t treat these questions like “homework” or try to answer every single one. Instead, make time to meditate on the list and then pick the one question that speaks to you most. The goal is to figure out which question is “yours.” Which question captures the call of your inner voice? Which one contains “your work”? What is that question trying to get you to notice or acknowledge? Often it helps to read the list to a friend or loved one and ask them which question they think is the question you need to wrestle with!
- What fears did your family of origin pass on to you?
- What is the greatest act of courage that you directly witnessed? And how did it change you?
- Has bravely not running away ever produced surprising results?
- Are you being called to bravely not run away today?
- What do you know now about courage that you didn’t know when you were younger?
- What seems more dangerous these days? Pessimism or optimism?
- Is life calling you to make a “leap of faith”?
- How would your life be enriched by bravely forgiving someone? Maybe even yourself?
- What if Adrienne Maree Brown is right that joy and self-love are among today’s most courageous acts of resistance?
- In resistance to white supremacy culture, what are you courageous enough to stop normalizing? (sonyareneetaylor)
- Is it time to tell someone how scared you really are?
- Is safely tiptoeing around “it” making you ill?
- Where are you saying “yes” when you need to courageously say “no”?
- What if fear is an indicator of what you deep down long for and want to do?
- Has comfort led you to forgetting what courage feels like?
- Instead of standing up and speaking out, is courage now asking you to sit down and listen?
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