Who is the most courageous person you know?
When we think about the word “courage,” I think we all have at least one person who comes to mind – someone who faced their fears, stepped forward with boldness and defied their circumstances.
My former pastor, Dan Yeary, is one person who comes to mind. He started one of the nation’s first college ministries at a church in West Texas in the 1960s. In a matter of a few years, over a thousand college students were coming to the church on Sunday mornings. One Sunday morning, Dan baptized a black college student who had become a follower of Jesus.
In this West Texas town during the Civil Rights era, this was a bold, courageous act. Later that evening, a meeting happened at the church where many wanted Dan fired.
I cannot imagine the fear he faced as a young husband and father, possibly about to be unemployed. But, Dan defended his decision and indicated he’d do it again when given the opportunity. While some wanted him fired, his senior pastor stood up for him and used his trust with membership to keep Dan in his job.
Learning from Courageous Examples
In 2015 and 2016, I did a series of interviews with people who had taught me (up close and from afar) about courage. These interviews continue to be some of the most popular posts in my archives. Yet for many of you who have found this site in the last year or two, you may not have read their stories.
As I reflected on my choice of courage for my #OneWord for 2018, I recognized I needed to prepare to live out that word. So I started searching my own articles and interviews for wisdom and insight.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing wisdom from my heroes and looking for practical insights about how we can all be courageous.
In this post, I am going to share 5 Things Courage Requires. These answers are not my own and in fact, this question was never directly asked to any of my interview subjects. But as I read through their answers, I found common threads from their own personal experience.
If you find an answer particularly compelling or relevant, I encourage you to click the link underneath their quote and read my entire interview with them.
5 Things Courage Requires
1. Courage requires a “why”.
Mary DeMuth, best-selling author and novelist, shared about what helps her tell her story. DeMuth is the survivor of sexual abuse in the context of the church. While her story can help other people, sharing it can mean having to revisit the trauma. When we talked, Mary shared an important reflection.
“Telling my story even when it hurt has emboldened me because I see the change it makes in others. I’m becoming rather gutsy when it comes to confronting sexual abuse in the world. It’s like I can’t be quiet about it anymore because silence only perpetrates more abuse. If it means I have a target on me, I flat out don’t care. Setting others free is a better reward.”
Kevin Bradford is a fitness and performance coach. When we first met, he was working on writing his first book. He talked about the fears he was facing and his desire to be transparent and authentic.
“I kept my focus on why I was writing the book, and how my greatest desire is to share my story with the hope of helping others facing similar issues and challenges in life. I’ve learned along my journey the importance of putting myself out there no matter how difficult it might be. The response I get when I share my struggles is overwhelmingly positive. People crave authenticity and that gives me the courage to push through my fear.”
2. Courage requires being grounded.
Jon Mertz is a renaissance man. He grew up on a farm, worked across the street from the White House, held an executive role for a healthcare company and founded one of the top sites for leadership content online.
When Jon and I talked about how his background and experience impact his approach to fear-inducing moments, Jon went back to the farm. He talked about how his memories and experiences grounded him and root his perspective during challenging times.
“I am a farmer’s son. What I learned by being a farmer’s son are several things important to be courageous. Farmers control very little when you think about it. They can choose the crops they plant, and they can mostly choose when they plant. Care for the land is essential as well. Beyond this, what happens is uncontrollable. Weather brings bounty or wreaks havoc. Farmers have no control, yet they plant seeds each year. Farmers have a steely faith. This is a faith in what is possible, along with a faith in overcoming obstacles. Farmers pray. Farmers give. Farmers plant for growth. What helps me gain courage is to remember what farmers do every day. A farmer’s faith comes from within and ignited with a strong sense of a higher cause.”
3. Courage requires faith.
When I was in college, I had a frenemy. Her name was Amber Wagner.
Amber and I knew how to push each other’s buttons and we did so with glee. But even in those frustrating days, I knew Amber was going to be famous and I had tremendous respect for her artistry. Her skill as an opera singer was astounding and she’s made a name for herself in that sphere. Amber won the National Metropolitan Opera competition and has sung at the Met, the Chicago Lyric Opera, and other famous venues around the world.
During our interview, we talked about the fear involved in going on stage and how her faith has made the difference in becoming courageous.
“Jesus! I know that sounds cliche, but it’s the truth. Also the people He has placed in my life in this moment and time that have had courage to speak truth to me. One of my pastors said this recently after teaching one Sunday: “nothing we are going through or are about to go through is a surprise to God.” That has left a profound mark on my heart….God is not surprised by the events we go through! He knows it all and knows the fear we may experience and the pain and anxiety we may face! He knows the joys and highs too!!
I’ve experienced great pain in the last few years – physical pain – and I think it has drawn me MUCH closer to God and has helped me reconcile my fear of “what if this happens again?” I was forced to dig really deep into God’s word and literally gird my loins with scripture and truth to combat the fear”
4. Courage requires dark, painful moments.
For us to call something courageous, there must be something which creates fear.
For Christy Brosman, that fear was her second battle with cancer. Christy served as my assistant for two years. During that time, she went through chemotherapy and courageously put cancer into remission a second time. Christy is one of the strongest people I know.
When we chatted, we talked about real stuff which didn’t make Facebook updates or Instagram photos. Christy reminded all of us that courage happens in messy and difficult moments.
“One of the times I let fear win was when I was once again up most of the night in excruciating pain, battling a never-ending serious side effect of treatment. I was so scared and felt so helpless. I railed against God and told Him I just couldn’t do it anymore, to just take me home. I’m so grateful that He meets us where we’re at and doesn’t give us everything that we ask for! Even though I couldn’t feel Him in those hours, I knew He was there.”
5. Courage requires fear and anxiety.
Julie Cannon is a mom and a photographer. We met through her husband, Chad, who was coaching me as a writer at the time. Julie tends to be a very private person, so it was only when she had written very publicly about her own struggles that I reached out and asked for an interview.
When we spoke back in 2016, Julie and Chad were just starting the adoption process. Her willingness to share about that battle along with her own internal struggles made for a powerful conversation.
Julie acknowledged the context of courage often includes fear and anxiety, raising the stakes.
“Fear has always been my number one enemy. That’s hard to admit as a believer when God instructs us to “fear not” repeatedly in His scriptures. Over the years, by the grace of God, that voice has grown more faint in my life, but it has been a daily battle. At one of my lowest points, it landed me in the ER with a heart that was literally beating out of my chest. I’m sure so many can relate, but for me, I often feel unworthy or not enough. In other cases, it’s the unknown that stops me from moving forward even when I sense I’m called. It can be altogether paralyzing.”
This is why we need each other!
Let’s review what’ve seen today about courage.
You need a “why.” You need to be grounded, patient even. You need faith. You’ll pass through dark, painful moments. And you’ll face fear and anxiety.
Facing and overcoming all of these obstacles is not something we can do alone.
This is why we need each other. We cannot be courageous by ourselves.
I hope this post (and the ones I’m prepping for the next few weeks) helps you become more courageous. And if I (or other readers) can pray for you as you live courageously this year, please leave a comment below and share to your comfort level. If you don’t feel comfortable, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I want to leave you with the words of another interview. Stephen Brewster has been coaching and leading creatives for over 20 years, in the music world and as creative director at churches. In our interview, we talked about how he has battled fear and become more courageous.
Stephen shared about the power of community.
“Community & Leadership are probably the 2 things, besides a LOT of prayer, that have helped me beat fear. When your team needs you to make decisions based on faith it motivates you. Also, when you have amazing people in your life challenging you and cheering you it give you a lot of ammunition to beat those voices in your head. “
You don’t have to do this alone. We can be courageous together!