Pam Kircher About Me Contact Me
Tai Chi NDEs Integrative Medicine End of Life Issues Reflections



Courage has always been needed in the world. The form that the courage takes has evolved over time. In the beginning of the human race, courage was mostly of a physical nature. Each day required courage just to get through it. When a person awakened in the morning, they did not know if they would be killed before the day was over. Courage is the flip side of fear — or, stated in another way, it is the outcome of a positive response to fear. When so much courage was needed simply to stay alive, relationships were more about survival than understanding. That is not to say that people still didn't develop deep relationships, but most relationships were founded on a physical survival mode.

That kind of courage and relationship are deeply imbedded in our cultural memories and at a cellular level. There are still places in the world today where it is the main kind of courage that is utilized. This is especially true in the places where there is constant genocide going on. Please do note, however, that even in the most extreme of circumstances, people do still bond and form relationships based on deeper feelings than the survival extinct.

In more technologically advanced societies, courage takes on a whole new meaning. It is much subtler. Courage rarely is about physical survival. Courage is more about standing in integrity when it would be easier to simply bend. This discussion is about individual courage and also about courage in a community and, finally, about the community's courage.

So what does courage in an individual look like? Courage is something that we all feel good about when it happens. That is why so many men remember their times in a war with such fondness. Those were the times when they needed courage in the physical sense to survive. They bonded with other people in the interest of physical survival. Courage was clear-cut. That is also part of the attraction of extreme sports. Physical survival is actually at risk.

That is not so in most of modern society. Courage is much subtler. As physical survival has been guaranteed by technology, we have come to take it for granted. That is the source of our total shock and denial if we are faced with a terminal illness, in ourselves or in someone close to us. We expect to have survival. That is why 9/11 was so shocking. It is not that 3000 people died. We lose a lot more than that in car accidents every year. It was that our physical survival wasn't guaranteed against the anger of the rest of the world. We had thought that we knew how to guarantee physical survival by avoiding bad neighborhoods. Suddenly, we were at risk everywhere—at work, in airports, in malls. There was no way to feel completely safe. It took courage merely to go to work. For those people who became flag wavers, it awakened in them the courage that goes along with physical survival and it felt good to call on that courage again. The primitive man facing a saber tooth tiger was not contemplating the morality of killing the tiger. It meant his very survival and he would kill the tiger if he could. Those ancient memories were revisited and they reemerged fully. Unfortunately, for many people, they embraced those ancient memories and went no further in their thinking. It was important, merely incomplete.

Back now to the individual's courage in our modern society. Personal courage today takes a different form than the instinct to stay alive. Certainly, that is present in each of us. But over the last 200 years, and, especially, the last 30 years, we have become much more aware of our brothers throughout the world and the impact that we may have on each other. When we didn't know it, we couldn't consider it. Now that we know it, we can never unknow it again. And that is a good thing. We were always meant to evolve into a species that has knowing of each other in an intimate way. We were meant to know each other so well that we could read each other's minds. We were meant to behave as a single organism with input from its various parts (the individual humans.) We are on the brink of that evolution, and that is why courage takes on whole new meanings at this point.

So what does an individual's courage look like in this context? The first place that courage starts is in the individual with respect to themselves. The individual needs courage to view their own lives and their choices with integrity. We have such a tendency to paint ourselves as the hero or heroine of any drama. We seldom interpret our roles as "bit parts." It takes courage to ask, "Why am I behaving this way? Why did I say what I did?" It is by fully knowing ourselves that we can then become a "Soul in Community."

So, what does courage look like to the Soul in community? It is being willing to speak your truth, even if it isn't popular. It is being willing to add in the piece of information or shading of opinion that is necessary for the wholeness of the group. It is honoring the truth that each other member of the community experiences. It is not judging whether they are really in their truth or deluding themselves. It is knowing that we each delude ourselves part of the time and that even in that knowing, we must move forward with courage. It is being willing to confront community members who may not be coming from a place of integrity. It is being willing to speak your truth and to accept that they may disagree with you or even condemn you for it. It is speaking out if you feel that the group is moving toward an unwholesome choice. It is acknowledging that your ideas may not "carry the day." Courage is trusting other members of the group to do what they say. Courage is allowing that that might not always happen and being okay with it any way. Courage in the group has to do with standing up and speaking out, but it also has to do with giving away some of your power. Ironically, it has to do with claiming your power and releasing your power. An interesting juxtaposition for anyone!

As to courage in a community as an organism, it means having the courage to be an open community, first of all. It means that you allow people in and you allow people out. It means that you listen to every member of the community even though listening allows for less certainty. It means that you encourage dissent. It means that you trust that if all voices are heard, the outcome is going to contain more integrity than if only some of the voices were heard. Courage means that the community interacts with other communities with love and integrity, neither coercing nor acquiescing. They meet other communities with love even when they deeply disagree in many aspects. Courage involves approaching every situation with full maturity, not fussiness or wishful thinking.

It must be understood that you can have total love and still be firm with courage. Consider the lives of Gandhi and of Martin Luther King. They belonged to communities whose members didn't always agree with them. They stood in their truth anyway. They were not only hassled by big governments who imprisoned them, but they were daily hassled by other people who were not well known, but who constantly disagreed with their belief systems and were willing to harm them on behalf of those belief systems. Never forget that Jesus and Gandhi were betrayed and killed by people "on their side" who disagreed with them. Many freedom fighters in the South in the 60s were unknown people killed by unknown people who strongly disagreed with them. It has always taken courage to stand in your truth. That takes firmness, but it does not mean that universal love must be absent under the circumstances. In fact, nothing good will happen unless universal love (agape) is present.


back to reflections