PureInsight | March 29, 2004
The Courage to Act
[PureInsight.org] Courage is "The act of facing or dealing with anything recognized as dangerous or fearful, difficult or painful, instead of withdrawing from it; being brave and demonstrating valor."
Confucius (6th Century B.C.) in China and Aristotle (3rd Century) in the West, and many personages since, have praised courage as a virtue. Aristotle pronounced courage to be a moral virtue and Confucius's inspired stories and recitations of ancient folk tales gave many examples of bravery, courage and valor. Both of these historic teachers/writers contended that courageous behavior is a learned behavior. The more it is practiced, the easier it becomes.
I remember an incident from my later childhood – getting over the fear of dark places and courageously walking down a long, dark hallway to my bedroom. I was so frightened that I shook, but was determined to fight this terror and subdue it. I said out loud, "There are no ghosts! There are no ghosts! No cold hand will come out of the wall to grab me." When I had reached the bedroom door I was elated, because nothing did happen! Once I figured out where this fright originated it slowly went away. The fear stemmed from an earlier incident in my childhood, when I was locked into a dark, damp cellar without daylight. I was being punished for taking an extra slice of bread from the allotted daily ration during WWII in Germany.
As scared as I was, I was also indignant and defiant for being locked up, this indignation serving as a valuable trait that stood me in good stead later on. Two SS men were taking our beloved Jewish neighbor to a concentration camp. My mother and I witnessed this act of outrage. The cultured Jewish lady was one of my favorite grandmotherly neighbors! I kicked one of those two officers in the shin, I was so angry. Luckily he did not hurt me, merely barked at me to mind my manners. He must have sensed my fearlessness and left me alone.
So, where does courage come from? What entity in the universe looks after those of us who are fearlessly brave and perform many courageous acts throughout our lives, however small? In my case, I know that a supreme spirit looks after me and has helped me to overcome my childhood fears of failure and the fear of rejection. An excellent book, Zhuan Falun, has explained the value of overcoming fear and trepidation, and pointed out the fallacy of fear. The teachings in the book have removed my concern and preoccupation with the ideas of losing money, of being protective of time, or fret about investments in interpersonal relationships, even with family members. Rather, this book taught me to take constructive steps to fulfill my goals on this planet, without hesitation or procrastination. To carry out those plans requires day-to-day courage and perseverance in itself, but it is definitely worth it.
Looking around me, at my friends and acquaintances and reading all manner of stories, I realize that ignorance is frequently the source of fear. Such fear stems from having limited information about an event, a circumstance, a topic; people then become insecure. They want to protect their encapsulated mindset, and thereby shutting themselves off from gathering additional information, which would give them confidence and courage. The more often I read Zhuan Falun, the more confident I become so I can eventually understand parts of those marvelous teachings, at my level of comprehension.
When we have recognized those factors that cause us to fear, we must then sit down and objectively ask ourselves what causes us to become afraid and analyze our fears.
I remember the first day I sent letters to those forced labor camps in China where our practitioners are being detained. I was afraid to put my own return address on the envelope, experiencing a vague pang of doubt – would someone come by my house and harass me? Actually, one day a white van full of young Chinese men did come to our house. I saw them through the window and went outside right, telling them to roll their window down, asking them what they wanted. Their mouths dropped open when they saw me. They gunned the engine and roared off. They have not returned. Then something clicked in my head! I knew that Master had created this incident to test my resolve. I did conquer my worry that day, a marvelous feeling of freedom! From then on I have always used my return address on those camp envelopes and letters to Chinese embassies, almost 600 by now.
Let's face it – all of us are afraid at one point or another in our lives. Our attitude toward it, how we overcome this fear, depends on our resolve. Being human, we ought to expect trouble as an inevitable part of life and when it comes, we hold out heads high and look fear squarely in the eye saying, "I am bigger than you are! You will not defeat me! I have more courage than you do!"
Winston Churchill said once, "Courage is rightly considered the foremost of virtues, for upon it, all others depend." President F.D. Roosevelt had exclaimed, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," and the American writer Mark Twain had exclaimed, " Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear."
A final comment – the habit of courage can be learned, just as any other desirable skills can be learned. All it takes is determination and a little practice. With the help of the teachings in Zhuan Falun, we can all succeed.