How would you react? That’s the question I ask myself when I read or hear about acts of heroism by regular people. I don’t think of myself as being particularly brave, but many people who display tremendous courage say, after the fact, that they’re surprised at how they acted. They didn’t think of themselves as courageous individuals.
A few weeks ago, when the man walked into the Panama City, Florida school board meeting and waved a gun around, the superintendent of schools asked him to let the others go, saying that the guy’s beef was with him. In other words, he was willing to risk his life in exchange for safety for his colleagues. The shooter didn’t relent, but fortunately he wasn’t a very good shot, and ended up killing himself after a security officer shot him.
But just think about the selflessness he demonstrated. Can you see yourself reacting in the same way?
Most of us aren’t faced with situations like that in our lives, fortunately. For most people, our courage is shown in less spectacular ways. Telling the truth when it is difficult, taking responsibility for a error, or making an apology to a loved one can all require a surprising amount of courage. It’s so much easier to tell a lie, blame someone else, or avoid the person you’ve wronged rather than apologize.
Sometimes it’s especially difficult to have the courage to be honest with ourselves. If things aren’t going well, it’s much more comfortable to find a thousand reasons that free us from taking personal responsibility. And, there are often lots of good reasons things aren’t going well, but the only variable we can control is ourselves.
Are we in debt because of credit card companies, or because we bought too much on credit? Are we overweight because of McDonald’s advertising, or because we go there too often? Was the test unfair, or didn’t we prepare well enough?
Stages of life bring with them different challenges to our courage. Students, new parents, and the elderly all need bravery as they face what life throws at them. Facing cancer must be as frightening as facing an armed gunman, in some ways. Losing a loved one requires the courage to go on with our lives, and I’m sure that’s not always courage that’s easy to come by.
This new year that’s ahead will provide each of us with many opportunities to display courage. Most of them will happen when nobody is watching. Those are the tough ones.
My New Year’s wish to you is that you face what life hands out with courage, and that doing so will make you happy and successful in all that you do, and proud to have been the one to stand up and do the right thing when it would have been easier not to.