SGM February 2016 Theme: Courage
The word courage comes from the Latin cor, which means heart. Courage allows you to be yourself, to take risks, to have convictions, and to stand up for what you believe, even when it is hard to do so. As Brene Brown writes, “[W]e typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But … this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as ‘ordinary courage.’”
Check-in Share briefly what’s been on your mind lately or your highs and lows since we last met.
“Once there was a young warrior. Her teacher told her that she had to do battle with fear. She didn’t want to do that. It seemed too aggressive; it was scary; it seemed unfriendly. But the teacher said she had to do it and gave her the instructions for the battle. The day arrived. The student warrior stood on one side, and fear stood on the other. The warrior was feeling very small, and fear was looking big and wrathful. They both had their weapons. The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, prostrated three times, and asked, “May I have permission to go into battle with you?” Fear said, “Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask permission.” Then the young warrior said, “How can I defeat you?” Fear replied, “My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power.” In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat fear. ” Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
Thoughts to Ponder
The original use of the word “courage” meant to stand by one’s core, a “striking concept that reinforces the belief found in almost all traditions that living from the Center is what enables us to face whatever life has to offer.” Erika A. Hewitt, quoting poet Mark Nepo, from Bold and Courageous Together, UUA website
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. Ambrose Redmoon
Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway. John Wayne
Conscience is the root of all true Courage. James Freeman Clarke
It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare. Mark Twain
Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. Winston S. Churchill
The minute a person whose word means a great deal to others dare to take the open-hearted and courageous way, many others follow. Marian Anderson
Courage and conviction are powerful weapons against an enemy who depends only on fists or guns. Animals know when you are afraid; a coward knows when you are not. Thornton Wilder
The opposite for courage is not cowardice, it is conformity. Even a dead fish can go with the flow. Jim Hightower
Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. Anais Nin
You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” Eleanor Roosevelt
The willingness to show up changes us. It makes us a little braver each time. Brene Brown
How few there are who have courage enough to own their faults, or resolution enough to mend them. Benjamin Franklin
Don’t Make Assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life. Don Miguel Ruiz
- Theologian Mary Daly wrote, “Courage is like – it’s a habitus, a habit, a virtue: You get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging.” Practice “couraging” by doing something that takes courage for you. What were the results? Did it help you get the courage to do it, or something else brave, again?
- Make it a point to notice when someone does something that may require courage, whether it is the child who dares to go up for the Story for All Ages without a parent, the adult who speaks up in a group when someone is treated disrespectfully, or something else. What can we learn from these examples?
- Is there something about yourself that you have been unwilling to recognize? Pema Chodron writes, “The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.” Gently and lovingly, see if there is one thing about yourself you might be able to find the courage to acknowledge and possibly try to change. Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
Sitting in Silence
Take a few moments to sit quietly and reflect upon your thoughts related to courage.
Questions for Contemplation
- When in your life have you felt called to take a courageous stand, or to be courageous? Reflect on what happened when you were courageous.
- Can you think of a time when you did, or did not do, something because you lacked courage? What were you afraid of? What was the outcome?
- What in your life requires courage?
- Are there things you would do if you only had the courage? What has held you back?
Respond with your thoughts/experiences
This is a time to respond briefly to something another person said or to relate additional thoughts that may have occurred as others shared.
Singing We Shall Not Give Up the Fight,
1. We shall not give up the fight,
We have only started (x3)
We shall not give up the fight
We have only started (x3)
2. Together we’ll have victory, hand holding hand [etc.]
3. Never ever put to flight, we’re bound to win [etc.]
4. We shall not give up the fight, we have only started [etc.]
Extinguishing the Chalice
God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. Reinhold Niebuhr
Books by Pema Chodron:
- Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion
- The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times
- The Fearless Heart: The practice of living with courage and compassion