A woman and her husband interrupted their vacation to go to a dentist. “I want a tooth pulled, and I don’t want Novocain because I’m in a big hurry,” the woman said. “Just extract the tooth as quickly as possible, and we’ll be on our way.”
The dentist was quite impressed. “You’re certainly a courageous woman,” he said. “Which tooth is it?”
The woman turned to her husband and said, “Show him your tooth, dear.”
Courage is something we admire in others, don’t we? We write about it, acknowledge it, and applaud it. We see it inherent in those people who are heroic: Those brave police officers in Dallas who sacrificed their lives to protect and serve their community. These people stand up to their fears and the world’s injustices.
Someone once said that courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to walk on in spite of it. Mark Twain said, “Courage is resistance to fear, master of fear—not absence of fear.” Plato stated that courage knows what to fear. Fear is commonplace. Just because one is courageous does not imply that they are operating without fear. Karle Wilson Baker penned:
Courage is armor
A blind man wears;
The calloused scar
Of outlived despairs
Courage is fear
That has said its prayers.
Courage confronts fear head on. In recounting his life long struggle to gain victory over his old enemy rheumatic heart disease, H.C. Brown stated his helpful philosophy for attacking fears: “The way to defeat your fear is to walk toward it.” Basil King in The Conquest of Fear wrote, “Be bold—and mighty forces will come to your aid.” James Coleman stated, “The brave person is not the one who experiences no fear, but the one who acts courageously despite fear.”
Courage is more than facing our fears; it is doing what is right. Courage could be defined as the ability to do what is right even when we don’t have to. Embedded in courage is conviction—the issues of the heart that one will live by and die for. Francis Kelly wrote, “Convictions are the mainsprings of action, the driving powers of life. What a man lives are his convictions.” Martin Luther King, Jr., often told his children, “If a man has nothing that is worthy dying for, then he is not fit to live.” When we show our courage we live out our convictions, as we say no to those things that are wrong and yes to those things that are right.
Courage, therefore, calls for action. Courage is an inner resolve to go forward despite obstacles and frightening situations. Courage is the decision to take the first step, hoping the next step will be a little easier. Courage breeds confidence. Courage shoves fear down and refuses to let it control and master. It does not give fear a voice. Courage acts.
A seamstress from Montgomery, Alabama, had something to teach a segregated world about love and justice and community. One morning in December of 1955, a bus driver told her she must vacate her seat and move to the back of the bus because she was an African American and a white person needed the seat. In one of the most courageous choices of the twentieth century, Rosa Parks did not move. And she started a revolution.
General George Patton said, “The time to take counsel of your fears is before you make an important battle decision. That’s the time to listen to every fear you can imagine. When you have collected all the facts and fears and made your decision, turn off all your fears and go ahead.” Rosa Parks turned off her fears. She acted. She made a difference.
People who act make a difference. People who are willing to muster the courage and dare to act inspire us to rise up beyond our own mediocrity and our cynicism. These courageous men and women teach us how we ourselves can act courageously. Let’s not just admire the courage of others, let’s step up and move forward to make a difference in this world everyday.