The Four Stages of Development
History pivots on certain critical actions, like when Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. United States Attorney General Ramsey Clark said of her, “If Rosa Parks had not refused to move to the back of the bus, you and I might never have heard of Dr. Martin Luther King.” By sitting down, she stood for all her people. Over 450 years earlier, another Martin changed the world when Martin Luther, an obscure German monk, stood before the Diet of Worms and said, “I neither can nor will recant anything, since it is neither right nor safe to act against conscience. Here I stand; I can do no other.”
Both of these monumental moments in time changed the course of history and still are impacting the flow of world events. What is the fulcrum upon which these pivotal actions move, both in the course of nations and our own personal lives? It is the character quality which shapes all the other character qualities. That attribute is courage. C.S. Lewis, the Oxford Don and prolific writer of philosophical, theological and remarkable children’s books once said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, it is the form of every virtue at the testing point.” Lewis is absolutely right; without courage, faith, hope and love are nothing more than emotional breezes that momentarily rustle the flag and then are gone.
“If this quality were not so central to all that mankind aspires to become, it wouldn’t dominate the cultural ideals of every people group on the planet.”
What is it about courage?
If this quality were not so central to all that mankind aspires to become, it wouldn’t dominate the cultural ideals of every people group on the planet. I once heard a preacher say, “God can handle our sin much easier than our cowardice; churches are full of good people, but they are good for nothing!”
The four aspects of courage are:
COURAGE IS PERSPECTIVE
We all face challenges in life; it is courage that keeps those challenges in proper perspective. Without it, our challenges look like giants and we are reduced to the size of grasshoppers. Courage is the greatest risk mitigator that exists, because without courage risks are never taken and without taking risks, well, nothing of consequence is ever accomplished.
COURAGE IS FREEDOM
Whether it is the freedom to launch a business or to launch a new career, the catalysis for all freedom is courage. What is more, the only thing that preserves freedom is courage. It is alright to be cautious and certainly recklessness is no virtue, but even the turtle won’t get anywhere unless he sticks his neck out!
COURAGE MAKES DECISIONS
Courage is a decision that is made in conflict; it may be an ethical conflict or an opportunistic conflict. Admiral William Halsey once said, “There are not great men, there are only ordinary men who because of extraordinary circumstances are forced to meet great challenges.” He later put it more plainly, “Heroes aren’t born, they are cornered!”
COURAGE IS VISIONARY
Courage sees the ultimate objective, not just the immediate task. Talk to any successful entrepreneur and their’s is a tale of vision and the courage to pursue it. Interestingly “encourage” means to put courage into someone, “discourage” means to siphon it out. Therefore, courageous visionary people have to align with and surround themselves with other courageous visionary people or their courage will simply get drained out. As Benjamin Franklin said, “If we don’t hang together, we shall most certainly hang separately.”
DOESN’T MEAN YOU’RE NOT SCARED
Many think courage is when you aren’t afraid; actually it is more like when you are the only one who knows you are afraid. Or as it says in The Red Badge of Courage, courage is “the temporary but sublime absence of selfishness.”
I once saw a movie that featured Ben Affleck called Bounce. Affleck played an aggressive but likeable advertising executive, who was stranded in O’Hare airport in Chicago during a snowstorm, trying to get home to LA. He meets a fellow traveler also trying to get home to LA, for an outing with his son. So in a magnanimous way he gives him his ticket, then convinces his friend, an airline employee, to allow him on the flight. The plane goes down in the storm and so begins Affleck’s painful journey that eventually takes him into a relationship with the man’s widow, played by Gwyneth Paltrow and his two children.
There is a memorable scene where Affleck’s character says to Paltrow’s, “You are so brave.” She responds, “I was actually scared.” He replies, “It isn’t courage if you’re not scared.