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 everywhereat
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
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
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