COURAGE, MY WORD – There’s No Simple Explanation For Anything Important

e-e-cummings_quotes_courageWell, they went there. People are laughing in the face of courage (again) and I’m pissed.

I’m rant-y this morning. Why? Because there are factions who are trying to bastardize the word COURAGE. AGAIN.

noun: courage
-The ability to do something that frightens one.
“she called on all her courage to face the ordeal”
-Strength in the face of pain or grief.
That is the definition of courage. Plain and simple.
Don’t get me wrong…I love that there are courageous people in this world who fight for democracy. I support the troops that put themselves in the line of fire so that we can live a life of freedom. Democracy is everything. Freedom is everything.
But to my understanding, one does NOT need to be facing a line of bullets and weaponry to be considered courageous. Courage is, as defined above, the ability to step outside of your comfort zone and act or speak despite the fear you may feel in doing so. Courage is the ability to stop running and hiding from that thing that causes you pain and grief. Courage is saying, “NO MORE.” Courage is speaking up for yourself when nobody else will. Courage doesn’t always come with a shotgun. Is sometimes comes with the utterance of a single sentence.
I found courage myself a few years ago, and I will now stand in front of a firing squad to defend my right to call myself courageous. No, I didn’t defend democracy. No, I didn’t defeat terrorism. No, I didn’t kill the infidels. No, I didn’t free the tormented masses from the clutches of the enemy.
I freed myself.
Maybe I was only able to do that because there are people out there, somewhere, defending our rights for democracy and peace. Maybe because of soldiers we’re able to casually take everything that comes with freedom for granted. Christ, even the ability to contemplate and reason sometimes comes to us because we are free and living in a democratic society. For that, I am beyond grateful. I don’t want this rant to be against the courage of soldiers and police, and firemen, and EMS, etc, etc, etc, etc. I just want it to be realized that you don’t need to save the world to have courage.
I saved myself. For me, that was enough. I have courage.
And so, I must point out at this time, does Caitlyn Jenner. Trans people put their lives in danger just by being who they are. Just by allowing themselves to cross that line from INSIDE SELF to OUTSIDE SELF. They face persecution, ridicule, death…just by being themselves. Scroll up to the definition of courage…it fits, doesn’t it. So when it was announced that Caitlyn Jenner would be honoured with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, I thought, “YES!” The award is presented annually to individuals whose contributions transcend sports.
This contribution, though only Caitlyn’s personal step in the right direction towards a more authentic self, is monumental. Her courageous actions will help countless people. She is swaying perception, she is opening dialogue, she is telling those who struggle that it is okay. I don’t know about you, but I think that if someone else has the courage to say, ‘Find and be your authentic self…like this’, it carries weight.
You never know what a person carries with them through life. We don’t come with cautionary labels affixed to our person to warn others of our trials and tribulations. To deny Caitlyn’s courage is to deny all courage. We are a world of courageous people. Every day we each face the day and carry on. Courageously. No, we don’t all carry guns. We don’t all fight for world peace. We don’t all put our lives in jeopardy in the line of duty. But to be fair, that is naught to do with the definition of courage. Yes, those who do those things are courageous. Yes, I appreciate and am thankful for them every day. But don’t sell people like Caitlyn short. She is courage personified.
My moment of courage? It came when, after 33 years of remaining silent, I chose to open my mouth and speak. Courage is, at times, merely the lack of silence. When I uttered for the first time that I was sexually abused as a boy, I felt the courage come out of me. (Christ… It takes courage EVERY SINGLE TIME I write about it! Each time is a difficult and frightening utterance that goes against the silence I spent my life hiding within) Granted, it was backed by 33 years of the lack of courage. But sometimes we need to work our way up to courage. Sometimes courage is just allowing ourselves to wake up every day and not put a stop to the pain and grief we face.
Let’s review, shall we…
-The ability to do something that frightens one.
“she called on all her courage to face the ordeal”
-Did Caitlyn do something that frightened her? Most definitely. How frightening would it have been for her to stand before the entire world and say, “I’m a woman.” Just imagine the years of turmoil she struggled with. It would seem to me ‘she called on all her courage to face the ordeal‘.
-Strength in the face of pain or grief.
-Did Caitlyn show strength in the face of pain or grief? Um…yes. An emphatic yes. Do I even need to explain this one. She most likely felt grief every single time she confronted herself in a mirror and the reflection didn’t match what was on the inside. PAIN? How much inner pain did Caitlyn carry in her 65 years? I don’t want to have to contemplate that, because I am sure it’s immeasurable.
Finally, to end this rant-y post, if you strip Caitlyn of the right to call her recent actions acts of courage, then you also strip me of my right to call my actions acts of courage. I can’t have that. I won’t have that.
“Courage, my word…there’s no simple explanation for anything important.” ~ The Tragically Hip
ONE of the Multitude of Faces of Courage.
ONE of the Multitude of Faces of Courage.

By Kevin Craig

Author, Poet, Playwright. Author of The Camino Club, Billions of Beautiful Hearts, and Book of Dreams, all from Duet Books, the LGBTQ Young Adult imprint of Chicago Review Press. Other books: Pride Must Be A Place, Half Dead & Fully Broken, Burn Baby Burn Baby, The Reasons, Sebastian's Poet, and Summer on Fire.

1 comment

  1. YES! We all have our mountains and valleys to climb and heck yes that takes courage

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