The Courage to Live (365 Days of Spirited Living – DAY 299)
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
— Benjamin Franklin
We live in a society that constantly expresses the idea of conscious safety. Courage is all but lost to most of the human race. At the least, it is assigned to police officers, military members, or for that rare single soul that has traveled the distance from rags to riches. We never once stop to think that we can all live daringly and bravely if we just tried.
Wherever there is a lack of courage, one will find an embrace of security. In this society, what seems to matter most is security. Perhaps you were taught to “look before you leap”. Look both ways before you cross the street. Graduate, get a safe job, and don’t take risks with your dreams. Follow the rules. Don’t talk to strangers. Be suspicious of everything and everyone until it proves itself. Be safe. Stay safe.
Is it any wonder that we’re more likely to obey a ‘Stop’ sign than a ‘Proceed with Caution’ sign. Because life demands that we live but it doesn’t always provide a safe haven or a shelter from the storm. That’s because it demands that we live bravely every day, not necessarily safely. Safe living requires very little effort. Courageous living may require a radical change in your thinking and your lifestyle.
You see, many people live within the confines of unhappy relationships and unsavory circumstances. They do not like their situation and do wish to get out of it and they will admit to both. But the problem is, they don’t take the initiative to change their situation because initiative takes both work and courage and they have conditioned themselves to live a life of safety and conformity. On the outside looking in, this kind of life appears to give one a sense of positive well-being and meaning, but nothing is more damaging than massive potential bound to a safe and secure existence.
A side effect of focusing on gaining security is that it can cause you to be content with the mediocre. It will have you living reactively instead of proactively. Instead of setting your goals and daring yourself to reach them, you will be happy to play it safe. You’ll keep your stable job even though it brings not fulfillment, you hate the boss and your co-workers, and it doesn’t even pay enough. You’ll be sitting on the side of the road waiting for someone to come along and put the fire into your soul. Whichever way the current take you, that’s the way you’re content to go.
Why? Because this kind of living requires no effort from you. Things will just happen — terrible things — and you will just go with the flow. There are basic needs at the very core of our existence. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, second to the very bottom is safety. No doubt there are real dangers and evil people that exist in this world that we must avoid. However, there is a big dividing line between courage and stupidity. The idea that the safer we are the better we will be able to function is an illusion.
Courage is when you’re willing to face the day and fight through the day no matter what kind of hell it brings you. Courage is that rare ability to never give up. It’s being able to risk your life to save someone else, to give love where there is only hate, to take a chance even though everything around you screams “no way”, to put your goals and dreams on the line, set it as high as you can and dare yourself to reach it.
Courage is breaking through real and imaginary barriers and real and imaginary fears. It is choosing to live a powerful life regardless of whether it is safe and secure. And faith has a lot to do with this. I think a basic human need for all people is the ability to have faith and be courageous — not just when tragedy strikes which we are prone to do, but every day of our existence. Safety calls us to just exist; courage demands that we live.
A large part of the great joy of life comes from our experiences. There is nothing more engaging and beautiful than to face each day with a renewed passion that you’re doing something that is meaningful and fulfilling. There is no better feeling to go to bed at night with than to know that the sun has gone down brightly and the moon is shining vibrantly over a person who appreciates life and has done something to show life that it’s worth living. At the start, a life of security seems to be enjoyable, but it isn’t until you adopt a courageous life where everything — the grimness and the glory — means something that you begin to know the difference.
Maybe you already know the life you’re living isn’t the life you were meant to live. Perhaps you have just talked yourself into believing that you aren’t afraid of anything because there are logical reasons you don’t do some things or go certain places. But it is mostly just rationalizations. Think about what it might feel like in the end if you just took the first step and then the next step and reached your goal. Your life just might change dramatically for the best if you choose to break free from safety and live courageously.
“Security is not the meaning of my life. Great opportunities are worth the risk.”
— Shirley Hufstedler