You have to be brave.
There’s no going around it.
Want to build a business? You have to risk being part of the 9 out of 10 that statistics say will fail. That’s terrible odds.
Want to have an amazing relationship? You have to risk giving your heart to someone else despite half of marriages now failing. That’s really dangerous.
Want to change the world? You have to make unpopular stands. You have to go against what’s broken to fix it, and you need to fight the self-interested parties that want to keep the system broken for their own gain, and despite knowing that real heroes many times end up attacked and dead.
You have to be brave. That’s one thing I find myself telling our young people more and more. You have to learn how to make your own decisions, to live and die by them, and to know you can make a vision a reality, and, just as importantly, correct your mistakes when you make them – and you will make mistakes. Mistakes are a part of daring, and great mistakes are a part of daring greatly. If you’re going to do something great, you need to risk making a mistake.
But how does one find courage? How does one muster the courage during difficult times, the times when courage is needed most?
Many people get their courage from external things, from the state of their circumstances, from the people around them, and this isn’t necessarily wrong. It’s smart to surround yourself with the right people, it’s smart to prepare for the inevitable rainy days, but many times, especially if we’re living on the edge, innovating, challenging the status quo, we will find ourselves facing things only we can face. During these moments we cannot rely on external sources of courage, we need to dig deep and look inside us and, hopefully, find something in our hearts to give us courage.
Sadly, many times, I find that we have been influenced not to be courageous. It may not be intentional, but too many times when we look inside us for courage we find that our hearts are hollow. Hollow hearts are the breeding ground of fear – and as Yoda comically yet insightfully said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Why do we have empty hearts?
I can think of two reasons.
1. Some people say to follow our hearts but fail to teach us that the heart is tricky, deceitful even, if uncalibrated, make us put more value on things that are empty, and we make emotional choices, fear-pressured choices, that turn out to be mistakes.
2. Other people say, “Don’t trust your heart. It’s deceitful.” and now we have a lot of people who don’t have the heart to make courageous choices.
Should we follow or heart or not? If we can’t rely on our heart to be a compass of what’s right what can we rely on? Our logic? If logic is dictates what is right, then why risk our lives for the poor, why love the unlovable, why follow the commands of Christ to serve in order to be great, to lay life for others, to enemies as ourselves? So if it’s not just logic that helps us discover what’s right then maybe what’s right is what others agree with. If that’s the case, do how we explain the mob? How do we explain collective evil like when the Nazis were in power, like how a group of powerful people will enslave others?
We have raised a generation that on one hand is not able to guard their hearts and so make foolish choices, and on the other are so fearful of being deceived by their own hearts that they have no personal conviction and unable to make a stand, especially when that stand means standing alone.
Instead, I’ve found that making a wise decision is not about just what makes sense, and it’s definitely not about what makes no sense. It’s about calibrating your heart towards the right things, filling it up with truly valuable things like love for God and your neighbor, and allowing our values to dictate our decisions. When you’re sure of what’s most important to you, when you’re sure that what you hold dear is most valuable, you become fearless. There’s a word for having so much clarity and sureness in what you love.
It’s called conviction.
And true courage, courage that is not based on circumstances, comes from conviction. True courage does not come from the reckless following of one’s heart nor the constant fear that one’s heart is deceiving. It comes from conviction.
The word conviction comes from the word “convinced”, and that word means to “overcome decisively, to conquer”. To have convictions means to overcome whatever is going on in our lives with a more powerful truth. This is why every time the Bible reminds us to be courageous, it gives us a reason to be courageous, a greater truth to hold on to, for example:
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.“
– Deuteronomy 31:6
In this verse, the words “for the Lord God goes with you, he will never leave you nor forsake you” is God overcoming Joshua’s fears with a greater truth.
You need to be brave. To be brave you need to have conviction, which is so much clarity and sureness that what you love is right. We strengthen our sureness by using a greater truth to overcome our fears. For me, that greater truth is simply this: God so loves me. He will never leave me nor forsake me. If I keep running to Him I’ll be fine.
When our heart is truly filled by the love of a perfect God, we find His perfect love casting off all fear. Courage, confidence and assurance, is left when love has done its work casting fear from our hearts.
And that’s how I find courage.