Finding Courage in the Everyday

by Susan Pogorzelski on January 21, 2010 · 15 comments

I wonder if there is a difference between being brave and being courageous.

I wonder if they aren’t both equally powerful, just in different ways. Being brave, I imagine, is reserved for those who scale mountains to rescue stranded hikers or enter burning buildings, those who take to the streets to protect their cities against adversity and march with their platoons millions of miles away from home. That is bravery in the greatest sense of the word — venerable and true. But courage…

I wonder if courage is something quieter, something deeper, something much more intrinsic and personal.

I think courage is what rises when you least expect it, but when you most need it. I think it’s what engulfs your heart, wrapping it and protecting it like a type of armor, like chain mail — strong and impenetrable, but allowing light and love to still pour through.

In courage lies compassion. In courage lies a quiet wisdom and understanding. In courage lies a strength more profound, yet, too, more vulnerable, than anything else.

I’ve recently come to realize that courage resides in the quiet moments of every day, so hushed, so concealed, that you might just miss it if you aren’t looking closely:

It’s the many hours spent pacing the hospital waiting room floor, awaiting news on a loved one. It’s believing in love enough to move across the country for it, taking the chance on the skip of a heartbeat. It’s taking responsibility for mistakes and admitting past regrets, yet deciding to move on with integrity.

Courage is living alone after living together for over fifty years. It’s visiting a grandmother in the nursing home, knowing she won’t be the same person whose memory is held dear. It’s the love of a family and taking care of those closest to you.

Courage is holding on when you want to let go…

…and letting go when you want so desperately to hold on.

I’ve seen that quiet strength in family and friends these past few weeks, have noticed it more and more lately as I’ve questioned what the word means to me. And I’ve come to the conclusion that in each of us lies the ability to be brave, to act on an inner strength and accomplish feats that we never thought possible. But I think, too, that there resides in each of us a quiet courage reserved for these everyday moments.

There’s courage in acknowledging fear, walking side by side with it, then finding the strength to bid that fear farewell. There’s courage in looking at yourself – all your flaws and insecurities that hold you back, the regrets that linger, the memories that last — and loving yourself regardless.

Maybe there’s even courage in a smile, when that next one once seemed so far away.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Positively Present January 21, 2010

Love the post and that last line is critical. It seems like a small thing, but there really IS courage in a smile.

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Susan Pogorzelski January 24, 2010

Sometimes, when times are really hard, I think it takes courage to even do that much. But it’s amazing to see what happens when that smile finally appears. And it’s amazing to see the courage hidden behind others’ smiles as well. Thanks for the comment, Dani!

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Tania January 21, 2010

Huh. Excellent food for thought. A lot of what you describe as courage, I’ve always thought of as determination…at least for myself. Those moments when I didn’t think I could go on, when I didn’t have anything left to give, but I still did. I like, though, thinking of it as courage. Hmmm.

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Susan Pogorzelski January 24, 2010

I wonder if they go hand-in-hand…I wonder if determination isn’t backed by courage — if courage is what makes you so determined. I wonder if courage is that quiet, that subtle, that you don’t realize it’s courage. There has to be something telling you to still go on — is it hope? Is it strength? Is it courage? Interesting food for thought, Tania, thanks for bringing up the idea, it’s definitely an interesting one! And thanks, as always, for being here.

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Harl Delos January 22, 2010

When I look up “bravery” at dictionary.com, the first definition says that it’s courage. When I look up “courage” there, the first definition says that it’s bravery.

In either case, it amounts to being afraid, and proceeding anyway. I can’t remember who said it, but half of all heroes are actually cowards that ran the wrong direction.

I was a terrible liar until I was well into my thirties, because I was afraid of facing consequences. I finally screwed up the nerve to start telling the truth – and found that telling the truth in the first place is a lot less painful overall. John Edwards will pay for his lies for decades to come. David Letterman fessed up all at once, telling everything, and not only have people been kind to him, but he’s actually harvesting a lot of humor from the situation. But it took me far too long to learn that.

As an agoraphobe, I’m reluctant to go outdoors. If it needs to be done, I do it. I pay the price afterwards; my gut is all wrenched up, and I’m in physical pain for a couple of days. But I find that the longer I go between leaving the house, the worse it is when I do leave. There are days when I ought to go out, and I wimp out, instead; I don’t deny that. But I’m working on it. I guess you could call me a “work in progress.”

Hang in there, Susan. You’re one of my heroes, and I really need my heroes.

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Susan Pogorzelski January 24, 2010

Harl:

I always love your comments, but this one is especially timely and truthful. First, thanks for sharing a part of yourself here — I know sometimes that’s not so easy in a space like this.

What especially caught my attention is you explaining your fears. Honestly, it’s something I can relate to recently and I’m not exactly sure where it’s coming from. More and more, I dread leaving the house. And more and more, it’s becoming so that I have to force myself out the door. Once I’m out I’m fine, and maybe it’s just the winter blahs keeping me in hibernation, but I’m not used to it and certainly not comfortable with it. I’m finding that it’s baby steps, sometimes even giant leaps, out of my comfort zone. It’s not easy. I guess you can say we’re both works in progress, huh?

I do understand a bit of what you’re saying and I am so sorry for what that does to you, how uncomfortable that must be. You’ve been a huge support for me and you’ve believed in me beyond what I could ever imagine. So I hope that you know that it’s always, always returned.

Heroes are found in the most unlikely of places and I think there’s a little bit of a hero in everyone. The same goes with courage. Every time you step out of the house, you’re demonstrating that. Go Harl! :)

Thanks, always. In friendship…

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Elisa January 22, 2010

I once heard someone talk about courage coming from a place of truth. Doing whatever you are going to do because you know it is the right thing to do. That is why you hear people always being cited for their courage when whistle blowing or doing some “seemingly small” things. I always liked the sound of that. Made me realize I’d always rather be courageous instead of brave.

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Susan Pogorzelski January 24, 2010

Elisa: I like that idea of courage coming from a place of truth and very much believe it. I think that’s why those people are so admired — not just for the big things that they do, the impacts that they have, but the reasons behind that, something they believe in, finding a truth in a situation or themselves. I really believe it takes courage to look inward, it takes courage to admit your own flaws, your mistakes, your regrets. It takes courage to do something about that and make a change.

It’s made me rethink the definition a bit. I love that idea, though. That’s exactly it.

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Sam January 22, 2010

This post totally speaks to me, especially this week. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that this part: “It’s the many hours spent pacing the hospital waiting room floor, awaiting news on a loved one,” was about me? Thank you for admiring my courage…I guess I never thought of it that way…which probably just reinforces your point that courage shows up when we least expect it, that it’s deeper and more personal. I think we all have the capacity to be courageous and strong, we just may not realize it or give ourselves enough credit. You definitely posses that quiet courage that you talked about, whether you’ll admit it or not. Beautiful as always, my friend!

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Susan Pogorzelski January 24, 2010

Sam: Absolutely, you are one of those courageous people I’ve seen this past week. As I wrote to you earlier, you have that quiet strength that is so admired, reserved and held back, but a formidable force when it’s called forth. I think that’s what courage is — being there for others despite our own fears and reservations; being a source of strength for them though we might need some strength ourselves. It’s what keeps us in that waiting room, it’s what keeps us hanging on.

You are so admired, Sam. For me, you’re an inspiration and that very definition.

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Walter January 25, 2010

Personally speaking, it is much tougher to be courageous than to be brave. :-)

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Susan Pogorzelski January 26, 2010

I heartily agree, Walter :)

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greymous January 25, 2010

My friend,

Though I haven’t known you for long I have seen a deepness to your strength (courage, bravery however you call it) that is a consistent part of your life. Yes, you tend to fight with that part and with your belief that it lives within you, which many of us do as well, but it is there and it is part of who you are.

Every post you make, every battle with the universe, every step forward when you want to hide in a corner shows us your strength. You inspire me to fight through my doubts, misgivings and self criticism with your words.

Keep up the good fight and continue to work towards that place within yourself that we already see! If you don’t I’ll beat you with a stick… :)

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Susan Pogorzelski January 27, 2010

Ken: I kept trying to write a proper response to your beautiful comment, but I kept coming up short. “Thanks” definitely doesn’t cut it, and “I’m so grateful for you” didn’t seem like enough.

You’re right. You’re absolutely right. I fight with myself, believe I’m a lot less strong than I am. My mom used to say it was just a healthy dose of humility before one day pausing and saying, “you really don’t see it, do you?” Truth is, I don’t. Sometimes I feel that strength. Sometimes I feel empowered. But all I know is that I’m trying to get through these situations as best as I can and sometimes it doesn’t seem like enough.

Dear friends like you are what remind me that it is enough, help remind me of the magnititude of my own strenght, my own courage. Your belief in me makes me think that I can do anything, that it does reside somewhere within me.

And for that, I really only can say thank you.

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