Back in the summer I started asking questions about the nature of courage. I’ve struggled with fear, anxiety, terror and paralysis for years. I used to be a much bolder person, more willing to take risks and to trust my instincts, and I’d lost that part of myself.
Recent months have taught me some things about courage that it might be useful if I share.
It’s far easier to be brave when other people support you with their belief. When other people invest you with their trust, faith, confidence and things of that ilk, it’s easier to hold some sense of being worth that. It’s also easier to be brave for other people than as some kind of solitary project. Humans are communal creatures, and community can bring out the best in us. Being heroic for someone is considerably easier than just trying to generally speaking ‘be heroic’.
The other community aspect is that being brave on your own is exhausting. Being brave as part of a community means taking shifts, propping each other up, hauling each other through things and not having to be brave about bloody everything all of the time. Courage as a community project is way more sustainable because the courage can continue far beyond what any one person can manage or carry. If someone is able to be brave, there’s scope for everyone to keep moving, often. We can take it in turns to be bold for each other.
Courage is not of itself all about fear or challenge. You don’t have to be afraid first to be bold in meaningful ways. Courage is a state of readiness to act, to risk, to jump, and to be informed by your sense of honour. It takes courage to live with honour. Without courage to enable you to manifest what you believe through your actions, honour is just a nice set of ideas. Courage is more than a principled way of living, it’s part of what gives a person the willingness to be active in the world.
It is much easier to be courageous when you can see yourself moving towards something. Without vision, without a sense of direction, what is there to be courageous for? Granted, you can fight to keep going and fight to survive, but when that looks like more of the same, pointlessly for as long as you can bear to live, it is hard to keep courage alive in your heart. We can’t always be fighting against things, that leads to exhaustion and despair. For courage to thrive in your heart you have to have things you are fighting for. It is not enough simply to resist.
I’ve been re-building my courage in recent months. I’ve had help. There are things, people, possibilities and opportunities I want to move towards, and that’s meant changing how I act and how I relate to the world. There are people who definitely do need me to be stronger and more courageous for them, and that’s been a huge source of inspiration. There are people who will hold me when I don’t have it in me to be bold, and who help me get back on my feet when I lose my confidence.
The more I look at these issues the more convinced I am that community is a key part of everything that I want to do differently. I’m my best self through my relationships with other people and I have most to offer when I don’t feel like I have to somehow be and do everything.