July 12

Today's quotation:

One with outward courage dares to die;
one with inward courage dares to live.

Lao-tzu

Today's Meditation:

Are all of our ideas about what defines courage mistaken?  Can we really have a concept of courage that doesn't take into consideration the difference between courage that others can see clearly and courage that others may never recognize as such?  How many people live lives of courage--through pain and misfortune and trials--that others never recognize?  And how many people are immortalized in story and song for one or two acts of outer courage that have resulted in their deaths?  Are they truly not as courageous as we've made them out to be?

It's hard to argue with the idea that some acts that are seen as "courageous" could just as easily be described as "reckless."  It's also hard to argue that some acts that we see as "cowardly" turn out in the long run to be the most courageous of all.  Gandhi's non-violent rebellion against the British occupation of his country comes to mind--many would say that because he didn't take up arms, he was cowardly, but in the long run we recognized his amazing courage--and the importance and effectiveness of his approach.

If I were to try to develop courage, I think I'd work on overcoming my fears.  I have fears of social situations, and I would put myself in more of them to become less afraid of them.  I have fear of some types of confrontation, and the only way to deal with that is to put myself in situations in which I'm forced to confront certain issues.  I have a fear of heights, and I often put myself in situations in which I have to face that fear.  I often back off from the edges, but that's okay--I back off much less than I used to.

Do I dare to live?  I think I do.  I believe that's the result of not giving my fears too much power in my life--and I believe that's what Lao-tzu is talking about in this passage.  Are you concerned that others don't recognize your courage because it's not the kind that risks life and limb?  Don't be--your inner courage is yours alone, and your life will take shape based on how true you stay to your courage and how little you bow down to your fears.

Questions to consider:

Do you try to develop your courage?

Who are some of the most courageous people you know?

Why do we value outer courage so strongly?

For further thought:

The courage of life is often a less dramatic spectacle than the courage of a final moment; but it is no less than a magnificent mixture of triumph and tragedy.  A person does what he or she must--in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures--and that is the basis of all human morality.

John F. Kennedy

  

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