We talk a lot about building courage at Camp Weequahic. Why? Because we agree with Maya Angelou:
“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”
Courage is the handle onto which every other value is fashioned and used. It takes courage to be kind in every situation, to practice gratitude when all seems dark, to be generous when you are so concerned about your own day to day needs.
So, it’s really important! But how do you build courage?
Courage is a perfect example of the ‘binary opposition’ idea I talked about last week. A scene from a recent pretty popular stories explains it perfectly.
Young Bran Stark is speaking with his father who is ‘King of the North’, a fierce warrior, and loving father. They were having a conversation about being brave.
“Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’
‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.”A Game of Thrones
Every act of courage has at least a kernel of fear in it. In fact, without fear, you can’t have courage.
Think about getting to camp and making some new friends. That takes courage for most of our campers. Why? Because they are afraid they won’t be accepted. (Thankfully, the campers and staff of Camp Weequahic are courageous enough to open themselves up to welcome all in!)
The neat thing about fear and courage is that they don’t affect each person the same way. We’ve seen kids who scale the 50’ climbing tower with ease have a very hard time overcoming their fear of performing on stage in front of others. We’ve had others who jump up on stage without a care who were petrified of trying to make a new friend.
In each of these cases (and all others), the larger the courage grows, the smaller fear becomes. Like missing home or my desire for Chef’s chocolate chip cookies, fear never really goes away. But, with practice, perseverance and support from those who care about you, courage will begin to swamp those fearful feelings and get you moving in a new direction.
We let it. Two great philosophers had something to say about fear. Lao Tzu wrote the Tao Te Ching in China about 2500 years ago. He thought:
“There is no illusion greater than fear.”
Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor and author of the widely read ‘Meditations’ said something similar at about the same time:
“If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgement of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgement now.”
Look, sometimes fear is going to win, no matter how hard you try to overcome it. However, rather than thinking that ‘you lost’, think of it as ‘you’ve learned.’
As a parent, I’ve let my fear of failing my boys ‘win’ from time to time. Thankfully, my bride has been there to help me see the experience as a learning opportunity and determine how I’ll handle the same or similar situation next time.
That’s a great way to keep fear from winning: including those who love and support you. In fact, knowing that you are loved will make you courageous better than anything else. That’s why it’s so great to be at camp, surrounded by people who will love and support you through it all.
The Courage/Fear Connection
When building courage, your fears will get smaller. If your fear is bigger than you want it, start practicing your courage.
First, you’ll need to reach out to a loved to help you understand your fear. Then, come up with strategies to work through the fear. Lastly, review how you did and keep the cycle going. Your fear won’t go away but perhaps you can turn it into a friend, something inside that is simply alerting you to an opportunity to do something courageous.
Get out there, Weequahic Hero. Practice your courage in big and little things. It’ll open up whole new vistas you never even knew were there!