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The Power of Courage



If fear wasn’t part of the human experience, courage wouldn’t exist.


If you think about all the heroes in your life, they’re heroes because they were courageous. Their courage brought feelings of safety to others. When I think of the heroes in my life, they’ve made me feel safe, important, and loved, and they have always left me inspired.


If you think about it, courage is the fertilizer for action. Courage inspires people to help others and save lives. It’s so important that we create awards to recognize it. Take the Medal of Honor—it’s an example of courage in the face of great danger on the battlefield; many times it’s given posthumously to the recipient because they made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their life for another. Their stories are told over and over again because they inspire us, and that inspiration is the fertilizer for compounding that act of courage.


When we identify with fear, we become fearFUL, but when we identify with our true identity as a child of God, we become fearLESS, also known as courageous. It’s often said that one of the most confirming pieces of evidence in all of history is that all of Jesus’s disciples were martyred because of their faith, but the fact is they were martyred because of what they knew. They were courageous because they knew, they experienced, and they testified to us, and never wavered after the cross.


It goes back to that Henry Ford quote, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't – you're right.” A modified version would be: if you know your identity, you’ll live your identity. That’s why who we are is constantly under attack, and we’re driven towards fear. Constantly focusing on what makes us unique and believing that is our identity is a lie. And it takes courage to strip all of that away. The things we identify ourselves with is false courage, false security, like putting a really nice set of clothes on a broken-down body. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.


If we don’t really know who we are, we focus on what we do, and if our identity is based on what we do, we let others define how we feel about ourselves.


In the Bible, the most repeated command/encouragement is: Do not fear, Do not be afraid. I believe that’s because fear is how we lose our freedom; fear is how we lose our identity.


I have the mental image of a home healthcare company, where they have all the different crutches and wheelchairs. In my mind’s eye, the devil has a store just like that, handing out crutches made of that false sense of self, leading us to believe that the crutches are things that give us our identity—like what we do for a living, or where we come from, or who we know and who our friends are, when in reality they keep us from knowing our true selves, which is a handicap.

 

You can feel fear and choose not to be fearful, in other words, you can be fearless while still feeling fear.

 

We do that in a very literal way as well. I was speaking to a homeless community recently, and we were talking about how they’d write their own story. One of the men said, “I would open the foreword with ‘I’m a homeless man named Mark.’” I immediately stopped him and asked, “Is being homeless your identity?” He answered that it was, and it struck me how we oftentimes identify ourselves as our failures or as our obstacles, and how that is actually a handicap.


We do that in the opposite direction as well. If someone said, “I’m a CEO named Grace,” they would be identifying with their position as CEO, seeing that as a strength. But identifying with an attribute is not identifying with who YOU really are. (Something I’m going to address in an upcoming post is how things we may see as crutches, like asking for help, are not crutches at all, but strengths.)


The courageous people who we recognize throughout time were courageous in spite of the threat to their personal well-being. I think most of them were able to be courageous because they knew their identity or their purpose.


You can feel fear and choose not to be fearful, in other words, you can be fearless while still feeling fear.


The question is: Are we identifying with the fear, or are we recognizing it and choosing not to allow it to control us? Not being controlled by the fear is courage.


I think about people that we look back on in time who were evil, their very identities created fear inside them because of the destruction they’d caused. Hate was their identity. They identified with hate and they used that to do extraordinarily evil things, literally killing millions upon millions of people.


Picture the two criminals on the cross next to Jesus—one spewed ugly things at him and the other opened his heart and believed in him, making a courageous decision at the end of his life. His legs were broken, but we know that Jesus planted seeds of courage in him by telling him what his future had in store. The other man identified with his fear and even though he was given the same opportunity, he didn’t make the decision to be courageous in acknowledging the innocence and courage of Jesus. It’s about the status of your heart at that moment. The thing is, in this life, at one time or another we have been either the criminal on the left, or the criminal on the right.


Jesus had the courage to let go of Himself, surrendering His will to God’s will, which is the greatest act of bravery. When we surrender ourselves because we’ve been inspired by His act of courage, we are strengthened and have the ability to be courageous ourselves, which reveals our true identity. Like the thief on the cross, we’re given the promise to spend eternity with Him.


This series we’ve been going through about our Powers—like the powers of Identity, Clarity, and Vulnerability—has highlighted specific topics that all tie into this post. The journey to really knowing ourselves is a journey of courage.


That’s why we tell stories of courage: to help us look back on that path to courage, and find courage ourselves.

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