Courage: Having the strength to stare it down.

Handling life’s challenges is a problem for many of us. When confronted by sorrow, disappointment, and uncertainty our positivity is threatened and we teeter on despair. A disruptive event, such as an unexpected illness, an unforeseen financial crisis, or a fractious relationship can occur at any time in our life. Some people fear upheaval and retreat inwardly. They feel ill-equipped to manage events that threaten their security and undermine their confidence. They feel vulnerable and confused, not knowing what to do. What they need is courage.

Eleanor Roosevelt had a challenging life. Both her parents died before she was 10 years old. She married Franklin D. Roosevelt who would later become president of the United States. They had six children, one of whom died in infancy. Her husband contracted polio and was paralysed from the waist down. She became First Lady of the United States in 1933 and played an active role in politics, supporting her husband throughout his presidency.

Eleanor Roosevelt wrote that

“Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run, it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each new thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.”

Various media platforms have featured several significant anniversaries that celebrate courage.

In 1967, 50 years ago, a diving accident left Joni Eareckson Tada a quadriplegic at age seventeen. Young, vibrant, and energetic, Joni anticipated the life she would enjoy. In an instant, her world crumbled. Her limp body floated on the water. She was unable to save herself. A life of dependency awaited her.

Years later Joni wrote about what she was thinking in the emergency ward:

I desperately wanted to kill myself….

Why on earth should a person be forced to live out such a dreary existence? How I prayed for some accident or miracle to kill me. The mental and spiritual anguish was as unbearable as the physical torture.

But… there was no way for me to commit suicide. This frustration was also unbearable. I was despondent, but I was also angry because of my helplessness. How I wished for strength and control enough in my fingers to do something, anything, to end my life.

Suicidal thoughts are unwanted thoughts and need to be stared down.

It takes courage to overcome our fears.
It takes courage to talk about our hurts and disappointments.
It takes courage to own our life story.
It takes courage to stay, one more day.

It took courage for Joni to turn away from her destructive thoughts, to come to terms with her diagnosis, to appreciate the consequences of her disability, to accept the pain that would persist throughout her life, and to recognise the opportunity to live fully.

Joni is the author of over 50 books, an artist, a speaker, a host of a TV series, and an international advocate for people with a disability. She has received numerous honours and awards including The American Academy of Achievement’s Golden Plate Award.

Joni’s courage is an inspiration to many. She is a positive role model for people with quadriplegia, encouraging hope and optimism.

As Brene Brown says,

“Courage is contagious. Every time we are brave with our lives, we make people around us a little braver.”

October 31, 2017, marks the 100th anniversary of the victorious charge of the 800 Australian Light Horsemen against the Turkish defences at Beersheba. The victory owes a great deal to the courage and daring of the Australian horseman.

Was it desperation that inspired such courage? Their horses had not had water for 36 hours. Or was it dogged determination to break the stalemate of the Middle East Campaign and get the job done?

The charge was the last daring act of a day-long fight by British forces. The Light Horsemen, brandishing bayonets, galloped across an open plain into machinegun, rifle and artillery fire, surprising the enemy who expected them to stop and lay siege to the town.

Famously, they charged so quickly that the Turkish gunners had no time to lower their rifle sights.

The Australians swept into the town. In hand-to-hand fighting, they routed the enemy and gained a stunning victory.

The Australian novelist Ion Idriess witnessed the charge and wrote this account published in his 1932 book The Desert Column.

“At a mile distant their thousand hooves were stuttering thunder, coming at a rate that frightened a man – they were an awe-inspiring sight, galloping through the red haze – knee to knee and horse to horse – the dying sun glinting on bayonet points. Machine guns and rifle-fire just roared but the 4th Brigade galloped on.”

Author Annie Dillard says,

“You can’t test courage cautiously.”

There was nothing cautious about the charge of the 800 Australian Light Horsemen. It was daring, bold and courageous. They never hesitated or faltered for a moment.

Martin Luther was born in 1483, into a world that was medieval. It was the height of the Middle Ages. He died in 1546 as the modern world was emerging, and much of those changes had to do with Luther himself.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017, marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation with Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg to call out the destructive errors and practices of the Roman Catholic Church.

This singular event was the beginning of his conflict with his church. It culminated in the spring of 1521, when Luther appeared before the Diet of Worms, before the emperor and the princes, the bishops and the papal legates, people who had the authority to put him to death. Here was Luther, an obscure Augustinian monk, offering his defence against charges of heresy. Luther wasn’t intimidated. Luther stood his ground. His conscience was captive to the Word of God.

It takes courage to show up and be seen. It may not be comfortable and it may uncover our insecurities, but courage can change the course of our life and perhaps the course of history.

Courage is standing firm, resisting every invitation to compromise.
Courage is persevering, shaking off the accusations and personal attacks.
Courage is having confidence, finding hope in uncertain times.
Courage is having conviction, knowing you are worthy, knowing you are more than enough.

Martin Luther was a man of courage and conviction. He stood on the side of truth.

Author: Bruce Rickard

Reflections on Suicide and Staying Alive: My son's suicide changed everything. I felt an obligation to understand why anyone would want to end their life. My regular blog posts explore the causes and prevalence of suicide and what is needed to sustain a healthy mind and a hope-filled future.

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