As a couples therapist I often observe that the person who hurls angry accusations at her spouse is not brave.
It takes no courage to destroy the enemy.
Tremendous courage exists within the person who willingly withstands pain and humility. There is pain in knowing we are human; there is an abrupt fall- from-superiority in realizing that the person sitting across from us is no less human than the person in the mirror.
Courage has made the difference between healing and fueling damage for many marriages in the therapy office. A courageous couple discovers messy and terrifying truths about each other and about themselves; They vulnerably betray themselves and their egos and their safety from perfection and rejection; They seek to understand through tears of relief and exquisite, earth-shattering, nauseating fear. At the end of therapy, a courageous couple has been pained deeply over and over again in the process of healing. But yet they keep going. (Courage.)
Courage. It is the one thing that has the power to transform our defensive and angry world into something that hurts a little less because it is seeking to connect and heal and forgive.
Courage makes a police officer say “I am human and my fear has made me paranoid, and acknowledging this is the first step to healing.” Even as he betrays his brutal humanity to the unforgiving world. And even though he must then sit with his powerlessness.
Courage allows a black person to say “I am human and I have a right to this anger, and I am going to be thoughtful about how I manage my anger.” Even as half the world thinks he’s a doormat and half the world will never see him for the unbelievably honorable person he is. And even though he must then sit with his powerlessness.
Courage makes the average white person say, “I do acknowledge my privilege and see color, and have to admit I sometimes have to check my own assumptions.” Even as it kills his ego and rocks his very identity.
Courage makes the church member say, “I love everyone, regardless of sexual orientation and this is wrong.” Even as he is ostracized from his community and condemned, and even if it ignites fears of his own inadequacy and robs him of superiority.
Courage makes the guy who is secretly gay (but is told he is an abomination), acknowledge all aspects of himself without shame. Even as he fears rejection and worthlessness.
Courage makes a culture ask ourselves “why” would anyone hate us? What are the terrorist recruiters actually telling these educated and otherwise-reasonable people, and how are they being sucked into hate? Even as doing so acknowledges our own imperfections and knocks us from our pedestals of righteousness.
Courage allows us to honor and tolerate the sticky dichotomy of fear AND love/tempered-wisdom when considering immigration policy. Even though anger (and sometimes hate) feels much more immediately powerful and satisfying.
Courage allows a child to stick up for the other child being bullied. Even as he is ostracized and belittled for his effort.
Courage makes us look within and wonder if our reactions tempt to give us power, security, and status, while only making thing worse. Even as doing so makes us know that we have fewer answers, less power, and less “rightness” than is comfortable.
We all seek love; we all seek peace. But do we have the courage to make these happen?
Just something to think about, from the therapist who says posturing and defensiveness never worked in any context. Not one.