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December 10, 2008

Courage

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoJxn_jUWqo&e]

Courage is not something that comes from flying to your heart in moments of need or in emergencies. Courage is not something that can be handed over to you through lessons either.

Courage is a way of life. It is as much a habit as anything else. Like getting up and brushing your teeth in the morning, or drinking coffee.

It’s a matter of routine more than anything else. People tend to speak of courage only in terms of deeds. For instance, they might speak of courage in the battlefield. Soldiers and policemen are supposed to show courage. Or they might refer to courage in the face of devastation. Flood-affected people or earthquake victims must show courage.

However, courage is not merely the name you can give to your putting up with a bad situation. After all, in a bad situation, there is not much one can do expect cope with whatever strength and forbearance you can muster.

But though we don’t notice it, a lot of courage is part of our routines. The man who gets into a blocked sewer shows courage. The man who tills the land, not knowing whether he will have a good monsoon shows courage. The woman who resists the temptation to lavish goodies on her children shows courage. The child who breaks a leg on the football field but goes back to the game later once healed shows courage. The student who is bent on following his dreams shows courage.

The real test of courage is in our daily lives. Or should be.

The courage to speak the truth. All the time. Because lies are the biggest and most obvious sort of cowardice that all of us hide behind.

The courage to speak our mind and not stay silent, simply because we are afraid that other people might not agree with us. Of course, there will be conflicting views. And of course, conflict is unpleasant. But not speaking your mind can lead to much worse unpleasantness.

The courage to stand up for what we believe in. The courage to follow public rules and laws and insist that other people follow them too. The courage to resist those who take easy ways out, which only leads to more corruption and red tape in our social systems.

Mark Twain has said, “Courage is not the absence of fear. It is acting in spite of it.”

The sign of a courageous person, then, is someone who is feels, fear, recognizes fear and still goes on to do what he or she believes is right.

The video above was partly shot at my highschool, Pretoria Boys High School , where the man in question, Oscar Pistorius , went to school too. Whether Oscar has courage is not in doubt. We know he isn’t scared to stand up for a future “race” of disabled athletes who can compete on equal ground with able bodies athletes. He may not be Olympic material this year, but he has opened the door to anyone who is for the future.

I have found that the moment which take the most courage involve other people we love. In sport, in security (protecting someone) and in coping in a situation I find that instinct to keep going and protect come before the courage to do so. It takes alot of courage for me to discuss something very personal with someone I love, especially if I need to disappoint them with the discussion. I am a naturally shy person who grew up with the notion of “shut up and get it done” or “shut up and get over it” but as I’ve grown a little wiser I realise that it wasn’t because I was taught to deal with things that way, but rather that I lacked the courage to discuss these things.

It also helps having the right people around you. Nothing kills courage faster than someone who breaks it down in you.

Go on, be courageous. You just might discover you can rule the world.

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