Practical Steps for Living Courage
Last week we talked about making courage an everyday occurrence so that we can grow our own aptitude for it and demystify the experience.
But on a practical level, what does that mean? What can we do to be courageous?
I did a little brainstorming and came up with a few different lists – beginner, intermediate, and advanced – of things that can be added to life to flex our courage muscles. These are simply ideas, and hopefully will get you thinking about opportunities in your own life for courage whether they are on the list or not.
Practice something you’re bad at. Literally be a beginner. Let it be OK that you were not competent before you start. Small as it may seem, allowing yourself to start when you know you will likely fail (perhaps over and over again) is a great act of courage.
Greet someone who has never greeted you. Begin to see the people around you as people, not strangers, not simply fellow humans, but as real people with lives as complex and all consuming as your own. And then greet them as such, even if they are unlikely to return the favor.
Notice what makes you feel afraid. A huge barrier to courage is a fear that surprises us and knocks us off-balance. But, if you begin to bring mindfulness into fear that you feel you can start preparing for situations that will likely make you feel afraid and you can plan a better response for the future.
Actively seek a new friendship with someone you don’t know yet. Nothing like putting yourself out there to grow your courage muscle. Even if you don’t become besties, the effort to reach out to another person will help you grow in bravery and allow the other person to feel seen. Win-win.
Brainstorm everything you would do if you were free from fear, and then do some thing from the list. I think this speaks for itself. If you look at your fears in the face and see what they’re holding you back from, you will have a powerful list of ways that you can face that fear head on.
Humbly ask for help. It’s super hard for us to ask for help most of the time. But, when we need help, it’s a beautiful opportunity to grow in two incredibly important virtues – humility and courage. Don’t let these opportunities pass you by. (One of my favorite quotes is “Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need.” by Khalil Gibran. Food for thought.)
Put yourself in the path of someone who vehemently disagrees with you, and commit to listening to them. I really don’t recommend that you do this on social media, but Instead look for an opportunity to meet a real person face-to-face and listen to them.
Get involved in activism that seeks to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, and commit to viewing those who disagree with you as people first, opponents second. There are more than a few fronts where you can be involved in meaningful, bodied activism (no, not hashtag activism) that will allow you to grow in bravery and speak for the voiceless. There are a myriad of fronts that need brave voices to speak for racial justice, the unborn, the elderly, the poor, the imprisoned, and the marginalized.
Wear your faith on your sleeve, but also commit to knowing the answers to the questions you’re going to get. As the Bible says in 1 Peter 3:15, we must be prepared to give the reason for the hope that lives within us. A lot of people have a pet objection to faith, God, Jesus, the church as a whole. These arguments are not impenetrable, and it’s not too challenging to anticipate what might be coming. Commit to educating yourself about your faith so that when you are brave and open about it you are able to face the questions that come in love and grace, but most importantly with truth.
These are some ideas to get you started, and I sincerely hope you come up with your own as well. It is worth it to seek to be brave every day so that when the opportunities come that we did not seek we are ready to embrace them with magnanimity, as a fighter finds peace even in the midst of the conflict which he has been trained for.
Have other ideas? I’d love to hear them! Just hit reply and send them my way! If I receive more good ideas I’ll put together a round up when I get back from maternity leave!