“I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of Men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the Age of Men comes crashing down, but it is not this day! This day we fight!”
I am sure many of you recognize this quote from the Lord of the Rings. It is spoken at the black gate, the entrance to Mordor, by Aragorn as he stood with his army, encouraging them in the face of bleak, insurmountable odds. We are also facing fearful circumstances and much uncertainty. The prospect of losing one’s health, or life, one’s means of support or financial future are all daunting. It leads us to a crossroad: be overtaken by the situation or take over the situation against the odds. Each of us has to make a choice–“Choose wisely!” (“Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade”)
Let’s face it, the Covid-19 pandemic is radically changing our world. Everything we know as “normal” has changed: work, relationships, lifestyle, security, stability, are being challenged--dramatically challenged! So now, more than ever, is the time that we must “choose wisely” and be COURAGEOUS. For decades, I have relied upon a Bible verse from the Book of Joshua which is quite applicable for this time. It reads, “Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” As the foundations of our lives are being shaken – we all need to be Strong and Courageous!
The Roman poet Horace, wrote almost 2000 years ago, “It is Courage, Courage, Courage that raises the blood of life to crimson splendor. Live bravely and present a brave front to adversity.” More contemporaneously, Mark Twain put it this way, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” And Thomas Jefferson said simply, “One man with Courage is a majority!”
As we face an invisible enemy, let us be the Courageous Majority, resisting and mastering our fears, and presenting a strong, brave, immovable front. It is only through Courage that we can unleash creativity and innovation to solve problems. Fear is our jailer; Courage is our deliverer. But Courage must be tempered with Wisdom, and not mistaken for stupidity! It is not courageous to jump off a cliff only to die at the bottom. Neither is it courageous to defy rules and guidance designed to keep one safe. Remember, Wisdom is the perfect course of action to take in any given situation.
I have heard it said that Courage, Wisdom and Compassion are three universally recognized moral qualities of humankind. When braided together, they form a strong, unbreakable cord. Courage is the ability to master fear and mobilize internal strength. Wisdom provides the capacity to do the right thing, in the right way, and Compassion is the engine that drives our actions – a heartfelt concern for the wellbeing of others.
As we face Covid-19, or any adversity really, Compassion is the only force of energy that can produce meaningful, lasting effect. Every action which is not precipitated by caring for others, and the desire to ensure everyone's wellbeing, is empty and futile. You can be courageous and wise but solely motivated by financial gain and greed, which will always come at someone else’s expense. If you are motivated by self-centeredness – you will undoubtedly be blind to the needs of others. A person driven by the need for attention, glory or power, is useless in the grand scope of producing social benefit and collective wellbeing.
Compassion is the internal mechanism which takes us out of the realm of “me-self” focus and delivers us into a world of the “we-others” perspective.
Compassion is more than a feeling, it is a passion that produces activity, effort and hard work. Compassion is manifested not in what we say, but in what we do. Here are a few examples of how we mobilize Compassion in this current health crisis:
- Call your neighbors to see if there’s anything they need and find out how they are doing
- Offer to pick up groceries for people at very high risk who should not go out into the public
- Donate goods or cash to help the most needy, at-risk community members
- Organize others to help address a critical need like sewing protective medical mask, soliciting and collecting essential goods, volunteering to provide emergency childcare, et cetera
- Advocate with decision-makers/power brokers to ensure that society’s most vulnerable are being served well and protected
The most important thing any of us can do to demonstrate our Compassion is to be an emissary of hope, encouragement, courage and wisdom. This is a great lifestyle practice anyway, but now, more than ever, we need to link together and form a strong braided chain of care and concern, welded together by a message of hope and victory. We need to be emboldened to strengthen one another, lift spirits and champion the message, “We will get through this together!”
Having Courage, Wisdom and Compassion means not only identifying with and feeling others fear, anxiety and pain, but boldly responding to relieve it! We should all be as Aragorn and declare, “This day we fight!”
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