Developing Courage

I was thinking about courage today as I read the amazing story of the American doctor currently fighting the Ebola virus in Liberia.

Nelson Mandela is quoted on the website brainyquote.com as having said

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

This comes from a man who bravely fought against the injustice of apartheid, spending 26 years in prison for ‘treason.’ He rejected at least three conditional offers of release. He must have been afraid of the prison where many other prisoners had met their deaths but he conquered that fear for the sake of justice and truth.

The young doctor and the missionary fighting for their lives in Liberia have seen the dreadful symptoms and the painful deaths of most who suffer from the deadly virus, but they chose to continue because they cared about others. The young doctor, Kent Brantley, has said that he is terrified of the disease progressing and yet even in that fear he has said that the experimental serum (of which they have only enough for one person) should go to the missionary, Nancy Whitebol. That shows courage, not because he isn’t afraid, but that he conquered that fear in order to be gracious to a fellow worker.

Courage grows when we face fear. According to the brainyquote.com siteAristotle once said that

You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality in this world next to honour.

Fear is debilitating and only facing it will help us to grow in courage and confidence. Once we have triumphed over our fears we walk a little taller and trust in our ability to overcome a little more.

Courage takes many forms. Most of us won’t be called upon to face 26 years unjustly imprisoned, or face the choice of looking after the sick and dying, risking catching a deadly virus, but we all face choices about when to stand up for things that we believe in. We are surrounded by people who cannot stand up for themselves. Will we choose to care for them, speak up for them, or listen to them?

Winston Churchill is quoted on the site brainyquote.com as having said

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; it is also what it takes to sit down and listen.

We cannot achieve anything in life without courage and we can only grow in courage when we seek to overcome our fears. We don’t have to face the big things all at once, but gradually recognise the little things that we are afraid of and choose to conquer them.