Thursday, April 30, 2009

What is courage?

Every now and then I stumble upon entries from other blogs, or words of wisdom shared in conversation, or inspiration from some other source, that help me define what courage is

If you go back through the years of entries in this blog (and if you're ambitious its 3,000 + comments) you'll see I try to define courage often, inspire it in others, reflect on it, increase it in my daily practice, and otherwise search for a greater meaning behind the word. 

I have some inklings in my brain as to why I am fascinated with this word and its meaning (though I've never been brave enough to definitively state my motivations) but I did find a passage the other night in 1 John, 5:18 that struck me with its clarity and purpose.

So if our question is 'what is courage?,' here is John's response:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.

What is courage then? Perfect love. 

What a brilliantly phrased definition. I am fascinated by the implications for how we love as humans if  you reflect on the idea of perfect love. Are we talking about agape? Eros? A form of Philia? Storge? In all these ways of loving a perfect love can exist, without fear of punishment, free to soar with the greatest intentions and celebrate the highest values, creating in all those it touches true courage to live a bold life of peace and harmony.

When we say with sincerity, 'I wish for peace,' or 'I'll think of you often,' or 'I'll pray for  you,' are we truly saying, 'I love you?'

In this sense, courage has little to do with actual fear. The idea that courage is not the absence of fear but doing the right thing even when afraid is perhaps better understood as a measure of conviction, not courage? For if we possess the greatest conviction in a scenario where others may feel fear, then we will not fear. In that instance it remains possible for us to love perfectly. If our conviction falters some so that fear creeps into our hearts and doubt into our minds, then even if we do our duty or perform our task, we do so without full conviction, but rather with enough conviction. And so while in that moment we may be capable of love, we are not capable of perfect love.

Share your thoughts or ideas, please!