Friday, August 10, 2012

The virtue of courage.

To have fear is normal. It is a healthy part of who and what we are as a species. Fear comes from the unknown or in reaction to a dangerous situation. It is a survival instinct we inherited from very distant relatives. Though it is an important part of our make up, we as sentient beings, have the ability not to allow fear to cripple our lives.  Courage is not a lack of fear, it is acting with directed focus despite fear. 

Courage can be cultivated in your life in many ways. A personal example of courage in my life is how I faced my fear of water, more to the point the animals that live in the water. During a visit to the ocean when I was 15, I had an encounter with a shark that left me more scarred emotionally than physically. The encounter left me extremely fearful of being in water. The fear became so irrational to the point that even pools caused a deep fear in me. For many years I lived with this fear, allowing it to destroy my love of swimming. Though I had taken it upon myself to learn more about sharks and their behavior, I could not find a way around this fear. About 4 years ago my partner Chad took me kayaking in his boat on a lake. We stayed in a small cove where he swam near me to keep me from getting too panicked. Though terror tore through me while I was in the boat, I refused to let that fear ruin something that could be a lot of fun. We did this every weekend for about 4 months. I got to the point where I was taking the boat out of the cove into the main lake. I found I had a new respect for fear while at the same time I found a new courage that would lead me back to the ocean. Just two years ago we went to the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. There I took my first steps back into the ocean. I didn’t get too far in and I spent a lot of time looking in the water around me, but I was there. The fear was still present the entire time I was in the water. The fear is STILL there, however now it is something I temper with courage and the wisdom of knowing the truth about the behaviors of sharks.

Courage is the tempering of fear. Through courage, each person can find a way to see beyond the unknown, to a place where things are clearer. Through courage, each person can find the strength to battle through their fear to survive, through dangers or uncertainties they face in everyday life. Courage also gives strength to follow through on a decision, follow an action that is not widely popular, or to simply be who we truly are at our deepest level. I have lived my life from the age of 13 dealing with people knowing that I was gay. It was not something that was easy by any means and there were many times I left like it would just be easier to hide it from my family and friends. It would have made going to school a lot easier. But I refused to allow the fear and pain to cause me to hide. There were many friends I lost because of being out. Many years later I was contacted by an old friend who didn’t want to talk with me anymore because of being gay. When we spoke she apologized for her actions, but most of all she wanted to tell me that she had never met anyone with such courage in her life. In later years she told me that she found the courage to come out herself because of what I went through. By persevering through the hardships of living an openly gay life as a teen and showing the courage to be the person I knew myself to be, others learned from me. I believe that is one of the most important things about living a life based on values. It teaches you to be a stronger person but it also strengthens those around you to be better people.

Courage applies to each of us and to every aspect of our lives. Without it, life becomes a shadow of what it is meant to be. Life should be faced with courage so that we allow ourselves to truly live each day to the fullest. Courage is a value that goes hand in hand with wisdom, perseverance, and moderation.

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