Rethink What You Know About Fear & Courage

Posted on June 22, 2012


The suicide of an adult son. The cancer death of a toddler. The adult revelation that you’re adopted, followed by the quest to find your family.  Multiple tours as an officer in Vietnam.  All of these individually would have been the main story line of most people’s book about fear and courage, but in Gordon Livingston’s “The Thing You Think You Cannot Do“, these are just anecdotes, tossed out to the audience to show how normal dealing with the pain of life is.  Reading the subtitle “Thirty Truths About Fear & Courage” I expected a typical self help book, but instead it is a deep polemic analysis on how fear effectively corrupts everything we love about society.  From page xi he starts in on the harbingers of fear, including religion and the authoritarian regime’s almost all people live under do to xenophobia.

Despite what we were told as children, there isn’t a limit on the amount of pain and suffering that any of us can be subject to, despite saying our prayers, doing our homework and helping old ladies across the street.  When we are faced with these terrifying situations, dealing with them is not a show of courage because in reality we have little choice.  What takes real courage, is to face fear of the unknown head on in defense of people we aren’t extraordinarily connected to (like our children or siblings) with the personal understanding that no moment in your life is guaranteed.  Some principles are worth risking this fleeting moment we have in the universe called life.  Making reasonable decisions on those moments separates the fool from the courageous

Some of his revelations about courage and heroes is actually a little stunning, coming from an American veteran.  He rightly questions the title of hero that we put on people like police officers, fire fighters and soldiers.  Not that what they do isn’t admirable, but considering their job titles and description, it isn’t heroic.  It isn’t out of character or our expectations.  He also chides us as “civilians” for worshipping these public servants, not because of their own heroism, but to mask our own cowardice in not taking extraordinary means to save our fellow man when the opportunity presents itself.  His analysis of the U.S.’s march to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan due to fear (because fear has always been the enemy of reason) is spot on, and how fear mixed in with it’s biggest purveyor, religion, allows us to put reason aside and commit awful acts of atrocity.  He expands the basic understanding that fear is based on our head on confrontation with our own mortality.

Dr. Livingston does a great job of establishing what true courage is.  Here at the Even Place we are excited to have him as our special guest this Sunday Morning at 8:10am.  Feel free to come for the event and/or listen to a replay of the event starting Tuesday.  You are sure to have your realities challenged and your understanding expanded, especially when it comes to the definition of an oft misused word…courage.

Courage is a choice to confront your fears.  In one of the books chapters entitled “Courage can be taught only by example” Dr. Livingston analyzes what we have been taught since birth about heroism as Americans.  We’ve falsely held up athletes and daredevils, who make physical accomplishments only in pursuit of their own ends, as heroes.  What must we do to show young people true courage? The kind of courage that doesn’t ignore strangers getting bullied, that doesn’t let cultural and physical differences allow us to declare war fellow earthly travelers in this life.  What are lessons of courage you’ve learned from life?