By Gopika Nath January 2004 Courage is the capacity to face the truth and to love despite its harshness that may hurt Nobody is ever really free from fear. Courage does not mean there is an absence of fear. It is essentially resistance to fear and mastery of it. Understanding what the fear is about helps in identifying the root cause. If you know the problem, a solution is usually at hand. Some people have more courage than others. Some people put up a facade of courage to mask their fears. Most just face each day as it comes with whatever strength they can muster. So what is courage? Is it strength against adversity? Is it having the capacity to take on a challenging feat or task? Or is it the ability to live with love in our hearts, believing in the forces of the universe to support us, despite being disappointed in a hundred ways?When a human being undertakes a feat that most would shrink from, his courage is evident and applauded. However, to me the greatest test of our capacity to be courageous is in the very mundane process of everyday living, being as childlike as we were about life and love whether we are 15 or 50. There are few who can survive the odds of disillusionment to retain this flavour of softness, especially if they have been wrung emotionally through their life’s experiences. Those that do, are to me the ones whose courage is to be lauded because they have dared to believe in love when life has continually tested their faith. Most of us become cynical and sarcastic and protect our need to be loved and the kind of vulnerability that we feel in its absence, by erecting defences that are cutting and scathing which keep others farther away rather than endear us to them. In this sense we have lost the capacity to love ourselves. Today I find that it is almost fashionable to be cynical or deny the need for love. I have come across people who do not believe in love and defy all attempts to be treated with affection because they distrust this. The fear probably stems from a memory of rejection held very close to their hearts and their defensive pattern of behaviour has become a habit they cannot change overnight. They need courage. A young acquaintance has recently been divorced. The only sign of regret that I saw was on the day the proceedings were completed in court. Thereafter he has filled his days and nights with lunches and dinner parties and long hours of drinking. He cannot spend any time alone. He talks flippantly about things and even physical injuries are disregarded and untended. To my mind, he needs courage to face the disappointment and rejection to be able to retrieve his sense of self in a quieter and more dignified way. He needs to revive his capacity to love himself and all that his wife left him for, to be able to accept love again. In another instance, I worked with a 24-year-old who was intelligent in the most natural way, but she had cultivated this intellectual veneer and interspersed everything with some phrase or ‘ism’ to gain attention or was sarcastic when she felt insecure. As we got to know each other better, I addressed her need for an intellectual guard. She had started trusting me, so eased up and talked. She had the courage to address her fears, which created a perceived need to protect herself with the intellect, when the real problem lay in the heart. Fear can be conquered though love. Courage is the capacity to face the truth and to love despite its harshness that may hurt. To overcome fear through trust, through love, we still need to be conversant with what they represent. At 24 she still had some memory of this. Many that I have met have hardened by the time they are 33 or thereabouts and unless this issue is addressed with care, they will possibly not find enough courage to love themselves and live a balanced and wholesome life that is fulfilling with any measure of depth because they lack the confidence to face the truth in themselves. Love and life are synonymous. Love is the basic source of our vivacity. It is a fundamental necessity. Yet, as mankind has progressed intellectually, this has somehow been forgotten. Those that cultivate creative expression do retain some measure of their sensitivity but this can also become a convenient guise or mask to hide behind. The ‘spiritual’ dimension of life and ‘art’ have always been linked but spiritual life goes much beyond creative expression. Living life with grace and dignity is perhaps the greatest ‘art’ we can cultivate. For this we need the courage of conviction to love ourselves. Many around us have lost the ‘art’ of being able to love and be loved. Have we the courage to cultivate enough love in ourselves to soften the hard edges of those wounded souls that hurt us each day? If we truly love ourselves, this has to happen as a matter of course. What we need is courage to love ourselves in every sense of our being, no conditions attached.
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