In the last year I polled many of my friends about courage. I asked them, “What is your favorite thing about courage?” All the answers were great, and this also led to some deep discussions with a few of my friends. Some of the answers were of a personal nature and some were great quotes from famous authors. I would like to honor a few of my friends by talking about their answers. Their words are better than I could phrase.
“The most courageous things one can do is love unconditionally.” – Greg Lambert
This is a quote from a good friend of mine. It captures the heart of working with women who have survived sex trafficking. We need the ability to love the women as they heal. To do this unconditionally is hard. There are going to be times when we get frustrated or discouraged. There might be moments of relapse and ignorance. I hope that we can have the courage to serve with unconditional love. Loving those who have difficulty loving themselves takes courage, but this type of love is healing.
Showing a woman that they are loved for who they are and doing so without conditions is a great encouragement. Being free from conditions allows one to discover who they can really be if they were loved. Knowing someone and loving them both because of who they are and despite who they are is an amazing gift. We need courage to love well.
“Let’s start with what “courage” isn’t: It isn’t doing something stupid to prove to someone that I’m not a scaredy cat, a chicken, or have no normal fear inside me. (Example: showing off to my girlfriend by standing on the roof of a car while it is being driven down the road.)
It isn’t plunging into a highly risky situation without any preparation. (Example: jumping into the ocean to save someone when you don’t know how to swim.)
It isn’t, really, doing something just because you were told you have to do it. (However, I will not be one to tell a returning soldier that he hasn’t been courageous.)
So what is it?: It is doing something with high value in the face of significant risk of painful consequences, including death, because what can be gained is significantly greater than what may be lost.”
– Ken Ellis
I love this quote from my friend Ken. His wisdom in sharing what courage is not is really helpful. Courage is not machismo or bravado. Often times these traits mask our fears rather than show real courage. Pretending that fears don’t exist doesn’t mean you are brave. However, when you face your fears head-on, knowing that what lies ahead is greater than your fears, is a beautiful truth. Having hope can give us courage and keep us going on the path that we know is best.
Because courage is not stupidity, it means we can plan to be courageous. We can set in our hearts and minds that we, when dangers or discouragements come, will stand up and continue to serve. Planning to be courageous is a good thing in any form of volunteering. If you are working with a population that you don’t know about, you will be shocked and surprised more than you will realize. Some of the things you learn will be great and some will be very hard, but you can hang in there with courage.
True courage comes from the freedom of grace. Grace loves you where you are and forgives you as you make mistakes along the way. You can’t earn grace; it is given freely. This is what I think of when Ken says you can’t be told to have courage. It reminds me of the freedom that we don’t have to change, we get to change. Grace gives the freedom to make lasting change rather than simple behavior modification. Grace gives the time that is needed to change the mind as well as the heart.
We will need courage in volunteering. As we enter this work for the long haul there will be many times when we will want to quit. There will be times when we feel hurt or passed over. There will be times when no one appreciates our service. There will be plenty of times when it will be easier to quit than continue. We need to hold on and have courage in our service.
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” Jen Hayes
This speaks into what it takes to heal from the many traumatic events that led to becoming a victim of sex trafficking. I’ve already said that the survivors I’ve met are some of the most courageous people I’ve ever met and that is true. Just as my friend Jen says, it takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. It takes discovery and a willingness to try new things. It takes courage to step out of what is known and into the unknown. Even if the unknown is healthier, it still takes courage to get there.
I have learned courage from my survivor friends as they deal with events in their life head on. They have shown a level of bravery that rivals anything I’ve seen. Hope will outlive the trials that we face, and even in the darkest moments these women hold on to the hope who they are. Becoming who you are is a long road and courage will give the grit and determination to hold on to hope.
“The part I like about courage is that it helps a person to face difficulties and pain without fear.” – Alisa Grant
Courage means that we can look fear in the face and not let it win. This is beautiful. We all have fears, but not everyone has the courage to overcome them. Courage is filled with hope. We cannot have hope stolen from us. We can’t be told to be hopeful, it is something that when birthed in us can be a powerful force for change in our life. This lets us let go of our fears.