It takes a great deal of courage to live in the midst of all the complexities and uncertainties that fill collective life. It demands courage to fully belong to a community, to a set of organizations, to a team and a to struggle with nourishing an identity through involvement with others, especially when this signifies giving up some portion of one’s individuality in order to achieve social and institutional objectives. There is a precariousness to self-discovery that is like living on the edge, swinging between the tensions of what is and what might be. The boundaries, the thin line between security and stagnation, between hope and despair, between creativity and chaos, are often such that miscalculation or stereotyping can mean the difference between success and failure.
Working hard and intelligently, pretending to make a difference demand lots of courage. To trust enough to self-disclosure, when the available signs suggest the changing of the social contexts in which we find ourselves, and this condition also requires lots of courage. For it often means that we have to regress to reflection levels with thought we have outgrown, to grow out of the constraints those earlier patterns have placed upon us.
It requires courage to find one’s own voice in a team, a set of organizations or a community, to speak with personal authority based on research and knowledge in the presence of conventional, status quo driven authority.
Courage itself is the product of on interesting and even dialectical dynamic in that only when one is floundering with all the uncertainties of not knowing what to do, feeling fragile in terms of courage, can one’s actions be courageous. It is muck like faith. The older I become the greater my faith in God. Faith was never built on a castle of certitude, but on a foundation of simply not knowing and progressive getting to know God. Courage is the capacity, with the guidance of God, to move ahead in spite of despair. It is like moving through a kind of desert.
This past weeks I have been reading a book I read twenty years ago, Paul Tillich’s, The Courage to Be. This time I have enjoyed it much more. He suggests that self preservation and self affirmation logically imply the over coming of something of which, at least potentially, threatens or denies our selves. Courage is the power of life to affirm the self in spite of any ambiguity. The negation of life, because of its negativity, is an expression of cowardice.
The tension between affirmation and negation is important to understand. There are many forces that resist efforts of improvement, change and transformation. This can cause personal and institutional fatigue. If we do not conquer those forces we may be conquered by them. One has to be alert not to engage in attempts to negate negation. When confronted by negation, the challenge is whether we can affirm that negation is part of the actual process of affirmation.
Courage is the act of affirming that which momentarily negates and threatens us for later on affirming a much better quality of reality.
Copyright 2002 QBS, Inc.