Intentional Courage: Everyday Bravery

by Carrie Bobb

Oxford Dictionary defines courage as “strength in the face of pain or grief.” Every day we experience varying degrees of pain and grief, or at least disappointment.

When life throws a curveball, the moment of decision can be daunting. Reflecting upon moments of courage (and moments I wish I were more courageous), I found three commonalities. I hope these provide some clarity to anyone who may be navigating the murky waters of adversity.

The North Star.

When I was on swim team as a kid, our coach told us to find a focal point above us when doing the backstroke so we could swim straight and stay in our lane even when we couldn’t see where we were going.

Portrait of a swimming champion concentrating before the race

A North Star is a purpose or truth bigger than us that affects more than our life and circumstances. That way, we’re not navigating our circumstances looking for direction within the chaos. It’s a point of reference outside our circumstances that keeps us on course and brings us through the difficult circumstances, even when we can’t see where we’re going.

Courage begins when we are intentional about who we want to be. If we take the time and energy to really put thought into our true identity, when we get blindsided, we already know who we are. It keeps us from zigzagging outside our lane.

Private Giants are Still Giants.

In one of the most famous historical stories of bravery, David went boldly running towards Goliath. The kid shepherd was not afraid, but an army had been standing there for 40 days watching Goliath taunt them.

Malcolm Gladwell: The Real Reason David Beat Goliath | inc.com

Malcolm Gladwell writes in David and Goliath, “When [David] tells Saul that he has killed bears and lions as a shepherd, he does so not just as testimony to his courage but to make another point as well: that he intends to fight Goliath the same way he has learned to fight wild animals.”

How we handle our problems in private matters. You could argue the private battles were more significant to David than Goliath. They are scary. Lions and bears are legit. They’re not nerf wars. Our marriages, finances, health, kids, parents, careers, have lions and bears lurking to steal what is ours. If we handle those beasts in private, responding to a Goliath in public isn’t paralyzing because we’ve learned how to fight.

Process of Elimination.

Most of us underestimate our ability to be brave. No one wants to deal with the diagnosis. No one wants to start from scratch rebuilding a business they spent their entire career creating. No one wants to see their child hurting. But what choice do we have?

Many times the choice to be brave is not the choice we want. People choose to be brave because the alternative is worse. So, they go to radiation every other week, wrestling their lion and fighting for their life. They clear the rubble, pick up a brick and start over. They put the phone down and cuddle on the couch.

The decisions we make, some big and some little, have profound consequences. They affect the all of us – our career, family, emotional, spiritual, mental and financial health. And I have found that once you deal with one giant, it’s never over. There’s always another one around the corner. We might as well learn how to be brave.