We all want to be courageous. (Or at least be known by others as a person who has courage.)
The heroes we admired growing up were full of courage and strength. Whether it was a hero from an epic story like Luke or Harry or Katniss, whether it was from a love story like Noah and Allie from the Notebook, or someone who stood up for what was right like William Wallace, our heroes inspired us.
Today, we live at a time where true courage has never been more needed. The Courage to stand up when it’s easier to sit down. We need the courage to speak up when it’s easier to be quiet. The Courage to hold your convictions when it’s easier to just compromise. We need the kind of courage which acts when it’s easier to watch what others are doing than it is to do something worth watching yourself.
Many of us have a sense of the life which is possible for us…if we were only courageous. We know, as Jack Canfield famously said, that what we want is on the other side of our fears.
And we can only imagine at times what our lives would look like if we were more courageous.
Words Which Haunt Your Soul
Late last year, I heard these words in a talk given by Jason Jaggard. Jason’s words echoed deep within me as I played them over and over again, trying to type them out on the side of the road so I could revisit them again and again.
“There are things meant for you that are currently beyond your imagination. And if you would have the courage to look foolish, if you would have the courage to suffer, if you would have the courage to let go of the judgments we think about ourselves and other people, I wonder what could happen. Maybe you are more powerful than you think.
Maybe you are more talented than you realize.
Maybe there is something for you…
A story to be told.”
“A story is waiting to be told if only we would have the courage. “
Each time I read those words, I feel them echoing in my soul.
The One Missing Ingredient
But, behind our desire for courage, and within our culture’s need for courageous people, I believe there’s a key ingredient we often overlook.
I believe it’s impossible to courageous without this element. In fact, I believe it’s pointless to be courageous without this.
This element is…
I’m going to guess that some of you are considering closing out this post because hope isn’t your thing.
To you, hope seems foolish. It seems flimsy. And you might think you can be courageous without it.
If that’s the case, I think you may have misunderstood hope.
Hope Saves Lives
Hope kept Michelle alive. Michelle attended the church I lead in Prescott, Arizona for several years before she and her husband moved back to the midwest last year.
Michelle has battled anxiety and depression for years. But recently, her battle turned even darker than before. She attempted to commit suicide over a year ago and she entered a residential treatment program. (She shared that part of her story in this article.)
I’m incredibly proud of Michelle’s courage and the love and support her husband provided along the way. I’m also proud of the community group they belonged to as a part of our church, which rallied around them, without judgment, during those days.
Michelle is growing and learning more about her mental illness. And she’s been very transparent, both with our church and her friends online. She’s even had the opportunity to share her story on the To Write Love On Her Arms website. TWLOHA is an organization built to raise awareness about mental health problems and help people like Michelle find hope and healing.
In a recent article, Michelle wrote these words about hope.
“Hope is the belief that life has something for us. It is rooted in believing something good will come from the shattered pieces of our lives. Among the messiness, hope lives on. Hope isn’t butterflies and flowers. It isn’t calligraphy over a scenic landscape. Hope is relentlessly stubborn. It is perseverance, endurance, and determination. Hope is what gives us the motivation to fight.”
Hope is not foolish, it’s wisdom.
Hope isn’t flimsy, it can be sturdy and strong.
And without hope, what’s the point of courage?
What if Hope Doesn’t Come Easy?
If hope is a struggle for you, here are some steps which you might find helpful.
Evaluate where and what your hope is based upon.
Many times our frustration with hope comes from our experience with the source of our hope. The strength of our hope is based upon the object of our hope. All of us have moments in the past where we placed our hope in something or someone who was unworthy.
So, if you’re struggling with hope, step back and consider who or what your hope is resting upon today.
Abandon the idea of hope as weakness; accept the idea of hope as strength.
Some of us have looked at people who we thought were hopeful as weak or naive. Knowing the story of someone like Michelle, it’s really hard to maintain that perspective.
I love how Kevin Gerald defines hope. Gerald says,
[share-quote author=”Kevin Gerald” via=”Scott Savage”] “Hope is a stubborn, unrelenting determination to not allow the hardships of life to downsize the bigness of God.” [/share-quote]
Anyone who has that kind of determination is not weak, but incredibly resilient and strong-minded.
Resist the temptation to make hope your strategy.
Hope is great, but it’s not a strategy.
A strategy is what leads to courage. It’s a plan of action. This is why hope is essential to courage – otherwise, why take the step if you don’t have hope? But unless hope produces a courageous step, it’ll just be a good idea and wishful thinking.
Hope drives the strategy and motivates courage. But hope is not the strategy.
Refuse to ignore reality to maintain hope.
One of the reasons many people are down on hope is because they perceive it as requiring ignorance.
“That’s great you’re so hopeful – the rest of us are living in reality.”
If I just ripped the words of your mouth, I get it. Trust me! But what you’re down on is not hope – that’s optimism. Optimism is choosing to be positive, focusing on the positive while also ignoring the negative.
That’s the difference between optimism and hope. Hope doesn’t deny reality, hope defies reality.
If you’re ignoring reality, you’re not being hopeful. And ignoring reality will never lead to courage. Because you’ll pull back at the last minute because you know you’ve ignored a risk.
Instead of that path, hope stares reality in the face and still chooses to believe. Hope motivates courageous action.
Turn Hope Into a Weapon of Courage
Michelle closed her recent article with a powerful call. And I cannot end my article any better than she did hers. So, here are her words.
Because it was believing in hope, in believing that I was deserving of recovery, that I refused to accept my diagnosis as a curse. My anxiety and depression are no longer a death sentence, a cocktail for perpetual darkness. They’re an aspect of my life—not who and all I am.
My name is Michelle and I have Major Depressive Disorder. It’s severe and it’s recurrent. But I am not my depression, and my depression is not me. MDD is a part of my story, but it isn’t my identity.
And my request to you is simple: I ask that you choose hope, each and every day.