Monday, January 20, 2014


“Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles;
Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances.
Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it.
Cowardice asks the question, is it safe?
Expediency ask the question, is it politic?
Vanity asks the question, is it popular?
But conscience ask the question, is it right? 
And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.”
Martin Luther King

To say Martin Luther King was courageous, would be an understatement. Today as the country celebrates the man and his dream, it's impossible for me to think about the fight for Civil Rights, without thinking of the courage it took for each and every one of those dreamers and fighters.  I was too young to be involved. But I wasn't so young that I didn't feel the "White" and "Colored" signs on separate bathrooms and drinking fountains in the Pic 'n Save drugstore. was wrong.  I was new to the south. I had a lot to learn.

I wonder where people like Dr. King and his followers find the courage to stand up for what they believe in. When I read my friend Terri's blog this morning on the same subject, I commented that I don't know "if  I could be that courageous in the face of such fear. I've been courageous at times, but never put my life on the line, like Malala or MLK and his followers. Fear makes me want to run and hide, not stand up to it. I'm grateful for the ones that say enough is enough and back it up with their lives and words."

The books I've read lately have all had the same theme, women doing things against impossible odds. Whether hiking alone for months at a time, or standing up to the Taliban, the women who wrote these books all have courage with a capital "C." As I read their stories, I'd say, "wait! Stop! Don't go there!" as if watching a scary movie where the dumbass girl goes too close to the maniacal killer and you know, he's not dead yet and if she walks by him, he's going to grab her ankle. I got scared just thinking about their feats.  The fact that these ladies were courageous was a given from the first paragraph. I never questioned that. But I did question why? What drove these women to not only think of doing incredibly brave things, but actually doing them? 

One time I thought about hiking the Appalachian Trail. One time I thought about walking from one side of the Grand Canyon to the other. But that's as far as I got. I'm much more of a thinker than a do-er. And I'll be the first to admit I have a problem with commitment. I might start something, but if the going gets too rough, I'm known to cut and run. I'm not proud of being such a Chicken Little.  I'd like to think I'd be heroic if the situation called for it. But I'm not so sure I would.

What if, I ask myself, there are different types of courage?  Maybe I don't have to face down a Grizzly bear to be brave. Or hike 2000 miles from Georgia to Maine, to see if I have the right stuff. Maybe Mary Anne Radmacher's courage is my kind of courage.  "Courage," says Radmacher, "does not always roar. Sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying I'll try again tomorrow." 

Maybe courage is finding out you have cancer and saying, "I'm going to beat this."
Maybe courage is  holding your healthy newborn baby after several miscarriages.
Maybe courage is leaving an abusive situation.
Maybe courage is sitting next to your parent as he/she takes a final breath.
Maybe courage is standing up in front of strangers and reading something you've written.
Maybe courage is responding to a "wink" on
Maybe courage is getting up on a horse when everything in you says to stay on the ground.
Maybe courage is saying, "that doesn't work for me."
Maybe courage is driving across the Fuller Warren Bridge (one of 7 in this town and resembles the Mousetrap game. Knowing which lane to be in is anybody's guess)
Maybe courage is saying, "I'm sorry. Please forgive me."
Maybe courage is following your heart when everyone else is going in the opposite direction.

In the end, I guess courage is a personal thing. As Neal Donald Walsch says, "it's not a question of whether you 'have what it takes,' but of whether you take the gifts you have - they are plenteous - and share them with the world.  There are those like Martin Luther King and Malala whose courage stands out like a beacon that shines light on new ways of thinking, or being. And there are those like Cheryl Strayed who faced personal fears by doing the thing that others said couldn't (or shouldn't) be done.  And there's me, whose fears are many and courage to meet them a daily task.  

What's your definition of courage?
Merry ME

If you want some good reading try:
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Becoming Odyssa by Jennifer Pharr Davis
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai


Jody said...

I agree with your definitions of courage. You are right, it is very much an individual thing, and that is important to realize!

My definition of courage was learning how to be alone without feeling lonely (and i'd been lonely my entire life), of traveling by myself, eating out by myself, going to the movies by myself; designing a house with an architect's help - but no husband for feedback; and of learning gradually how to have healthy boundaries despite a childhood where I was entitled to none.


Anonymous said...

I take exception with paragraph 4 - no one follows through with commitment more than Merry
Me! ld