By Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.
What is courage? When you think of courage, images of bravery might come to mind—knights on horseback charging the line, firefighters risking their lives to rescue a family from a burning building, or hikers summiting Mount Everest. This is bravery, not courage. Bravery is loud and boisterous. Courage is soft and quiet. Without the steady, quiet resolve and unfailing commitment of courage, bravery would never happen. Courage is what fuels bravery. It is the bridge between fear and action. It is a still, quiet voice encouraging you to go on.
Bravery is daring and doing, courage is friendly and welcoming. Find ways to make friends with courage. To “befriend” literally means making an effort to “become friends.” Imagine what it would be like to have courage as a friend who walks beside you at all times; a friend who never nags, never pushes, but simply places a gentle hand on your back and whispers words of encouragement, helping you take the next step, and the next. With courage by your side, you are able to go on, to walk through your days and do the next right thing.
Cultivate a relationship with courage every day. Each morning, welcome courage. Before you rise, say your favorite quote on courage out loud. Maybe it is the Serenity Prayer, borrowed from Alcoholics Anonymous, and one of my favorites: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Or maybe there’s another that you especially like. If you want, write down your favorite quotes on courage and put them on your fridge, dashboard, mirror or computer at work. This will help you keep courage close, all day long.
Look for simple ways to give voice to courage throughout the day. Maybe it is simply having the gumption to get out of bed. But maybe it’s the courage to share how you feel about your loss with a coworker or friend, or to walk through the doors of a grief support group. It could simply be making a phone call you’ve been putting off, writing a thank you to someone who helped after the funeral, going to church alone, or finding the backbone to be honest with yourself about something you fear. Healing after a death is hard. It takes courage in all shapes and sizes to mourn fully while living day to day. Congratulate yourself on welcoming courage, regardless of its size or reach.