Medical update: I’m still in remission.
Now that we got that out of the way, I want to ramble for a little bit. A few weeks ago, someone sent me a message, noting that they were inspired by the courage I was showing through this whole ordeal. Since then, I’ve been pondering what that word really means. To me, courage has always been something of an action, generally performed in a life threatening situation. A soldier charging into an open field to rescue his friend who is taking fire – that’s courage. Police and firemen going into the World Trade towers to rescue as many people as they could – that was courage. Put simply, I’ve always believed that courage basically equated to risking your life to save someone else’s.
In reality, though, that’s more like heroism. And this person didn’t remark about how they were inspired by my heroic acts (spoiler alert: I haven’t done any), but instead how they were inspired by my courage. My natural reaction was to just defer, to point out that I hadn’t actually done anything courageous, but then I realized that I probably didn’t have a strong objection to their compliment when I didn’t even really understand what the word meant.
So, I’ve been thinking about courage – what it is, what it looks like, and whether I’ve actually shown any. And then this morning, it hit me; courage is a mentality, not an action. Seriously, here’s the definition of the word from Merriam-Webster:
Courage, noun: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty
The actions that we generally consider courageous are simply evidence of a decision that was already made in advance. Those actions aren’t courage, but instead, the natural result of someone who possesses courage being put into that situation. They already had courage – the dangerous or difficult situation just gave us all a stage in which to see what was already inside of them.
This revelation helped me understand why someone could genuinely be inspired by “my courage” when, in reality, I haven’t really done anything. In my specific situation, I got a crappy medical diagnosis, cried for a bit, and then went on with my life. Besides the semi-weekly trips to the hospital and the wonderful medicines I’m inhaling, I’m not doing anything different now than I was prior to acquiring leukemia. But, in that normalcy, there is evidence of courage. I’m not trying to extoll my own virtues here, but look back at that dictionary definition of the courage again – mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. Amy and I made the decision to persevere through a difficult season, and while we might not have been getting shot at, Merriam-Webster tells us that was evidence of courage.
Seeing courage this way was actually pretty freeing. I’ve often wondered how I would respond if I was put into a stressful situation where critical decisions had to be made quickly – I’m more of a sit back and analyze everything kind of guy – and yet, I wanted to be a person who would have courage when necessary. But, now, I’m realizing that courage isn’t a spontaneous decision to put your life on the line, but instead, it’s simply setting in your mind that, no matter what comes at you, you will keep putting one foot in front of the other.
That’s all Amy and I have done. From even before the diagnosis, we had determined that our circumstances wouldn’t stop us from advancing forward. They might change our path, but we were never going to give up on our hopes and dreams, regardless of what life threw our way. Before today, I wouldn’t have considered that courage, but I’m realizing that it is, and that we’re all owners of courage.
If you got out of bed today, you have courage. If you have kept living when life got hard, you have courage. If you have refused to give into fear, you have courage. We all have courage inside of us, and we activate it by putting one foot in front of the other. Do that enough times, and you’ll be amazed where you end up.
And now, seeing it in this light, it is I who am inspired. I can say with confidence that I have courage – and so do you.