The Concept of Courage

The word “courage” means different things to different people. In fact, the word conjures up dozens of different images in my own mind: a fireman who runs into a burning building while everyone else tries to escape; a teacher who shields her terrified students with a gunman on the loose inside her school; a whistle-blower; a missionary in hostile territory; a football player who stands up for himself when he’s bullied by teammates; a woman who faces her attacker in court after she’s been assaulted. Courage can take many forms; but at its very core, courage requires character and strength. Courage is NOT the absence of fear, but the choice to move ahead DESPITE our fear.

I recently watched the movie Lone Survivor about a failed Navy SEAL operation in Afghanistan that resulted in the deaths of 19 members of our military. It would have been amazing and thought-provoking if it was solely a movie. The fact that Marcus Lutrell actually lived through the experience, the fact that it’s TRUE, makes the story even more powerful and gut-wrenching. After reading the book and seeing it depicted on screen, my heart remains heavy for the heroes we’ve lost as a nation. But I’m proud of the men and women who serve, and I’m eternally grateful for their sacrifices. The ultimate act of courage is putting your own life on the line to save someone else, the willingness to trade your life for another’s. The majority of us will never be required to make that choice, so wrapping my mind around that type of courage is hard to do.

Closer to home, I see other examples of courage just as inspiring. One of my mom’s best friends just lost her husband six months after he was diagnosed with cancer. He bravely faced treatment and a complicated surgery despite very slim odds in his favor. Now that he’s gone to heaven, his wife carries on – teaching English, taking care of her two daughters, putting one foot in front of the other even when the grief is debilitating. One of my best friends in the world is starting over after her husband cheated on her and decided he didn’t want to be married anymore. The pain, humiliation, and fear of the unknown threaten to overwhelm her. She feels like she’s drowning even as she struggles to answer the question of “Why me?” She doesn’t deserve a story like this, not when she’s devoted her whole life to him and their family. No one would blame her if she freaked out or checked out for awhile, but she’s doing the exact opposite. She faces every day with grace and dignity, even when it hurts like hell. Her courage gets her out of bed every morning; her courage compels her to care for her two little boys, to be their anchor even as their world is torn apart.

My story has always kept me off the beaten path. Ten years ago, if you outlined the mountains I’d have to climb and conquer along this journey, I never would have believed you. And I might’ve been paralyzed by fear. Choosing to pursue our dreams is never easy, especially when the pursuit comes with a cost. But anything worth having is worth sacrificing for. Courage is never blind; it can see very clearly what lies ahead. I knew my 2013 would be a lonely path. Leaving behind my house, my church, my friends, and my routine to move to a brand new place and start all over again was anything but easy. More times than I care to admit I nearly succumbed to the fear and convinced myself I couldn’t do it. The loneliness was palpable at times; the tears real. I wish I could say I never second-guessed my decisions, but that wouldn’t be true. More than once, I wondered if I would’ve been better off staying where I was, without the added risks and sacrifices. Thankfully, my faith in God plus the support and prayers of family and friends gave me just enough courage to keep moving forward, no matter how scary or overwhelming the road.

There is a school of thought that teaches fear as weakness, but I disagree wholeheartedly. Fear is a very real part of life, whether physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. Courage is staring your fears in the face and refusing to allow them to get the best of you. Courage is fighting back; courage is doing what needs to be done. Courage is never giving up, no matter how you feel. The concept of courage is different for everyone, but the choice to be strong and courageous is not singular or unique. Each of us faces that choice over and over…and every time we choose courage, we grow a little bit stronger.

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10 Responses to “The Concept of Courage”

  1. Clay Stanley Says:

    Amy. ..The reason you are quickly becoming my favorite journalist/radio personality is your ability to admit that you are human . ..

    Too many of those with a national platform simply refuses to do that.

    Keep going down the path you attempting right now…great things await you. Still praying for you….

  2. Jack Murray @jacksjack Says:

    Well done, Amy. Keep persevering.

  3. Amy, I have been a fan of yours since I happened across your late night show a few years ago and listen to your current show as often as I can. You are an amazing talent. Your sports knowledge is as deep, and in fact, deeper than most of your counterparts. What I most respect about you is that you don’t try to be like anyone else. You are who you are. Not just a great talk show host who happens to be female. You are one of the very best talk show hosts because you bring a female perspective along with your ridiculously deep knowledge of so many sports. This blog is just another example of your willingness to open up and share yourself with your readers and listeners. Keep up the good work.

  4. Great post Amy. Love your work. You inspire me. I agree that walking through fear is a big challenge. When we do it, we always have company. The reward is so very great. Keep inspiring us!

  5. templetonmd Says:

    This is a great perspective, Amy. Impressive writing. I can relate very strongly to what you’re talking about here. I think you’re very wise and you’ll end up in great shape.

  6. Hi, Amy,
    I am a recent devotee of your brand of intelligent sports discourse. You are equal parts Frank Deford and Jim McKay. Your recent post inspired me to think about courage and who displays it. Hope you enjoy it.
    Paul

    I believe that our society gives too much credit to those individuals who commit some transgression – be it legal, moral or ethical – and then are lauded for turning their lives around for the better. I also believe that it is the non-prodigal and not the prodigal son who really shows strength and courage by not giving into temptation and living a life that is honest, morally-sound and with character.

    Popular culture is filled with stories of celebrated actors, politicians and professional athletes who fell victim to some nefarious vice like alcohol, drugs, gambling or sex; allowing their occasional dalliance to blossom into a full-blown addiction ruining their career and family along the way. Bill Clinton philanders with a White House intern, Anthony Weiner exposes himself to the vast cyber universe, Michael Jordan makes six figure bets on individual golf holes, and Philip Seymour Hoffman ends up sprawled across his bathroom floor in his underwear with a needle in his arm, and dead of a drug overdose at 46. We know of their indiscretions because they usually run afoul of some legal or moral authority, and are caught in the act of giving into their personal weakness. Or as was the case of Hoffman, they die from their addiction.

    For those who survive their addiction, they typically must endure a public outrage and forced confession, which usually leads to an extended stay in an equally-celebrated rehab facility that only the rich can afford. A few weeks in this facility will always deliver our favorite actor, senator, or golfer back to us in a clean, remorseful, and healthier persona than before; ready to resume their life as if nothing ever happened. And we welcome them back into our lives as if nothing did; crowning them heroic and maybe even throwing in a book deal in the process. We are a society of second chances and we seem to love a good comeback story.

    But who’s the real hero? Those who take advantage of wealth and fame and abuse them; publicly fall from grace, and are given a second chance to reform? Or those, like myself and many, many others I suspect, who are confronted with the same temptations, albeit on different levels or scales of magnitude, and choose to look the other way and not give into the sway that those far more celebrated than I feel compelled to do. In the Bible, the father welcomes back his son who squandered his inheritance by living a life of debauchery and holds a party in his honor. So happy is the father to see his redemptive son, he slays the fatted calf in celebration while the son who stayed home and worked the fields alongside his father is given nothing; save for the respect of his father. No, people who do the right thing and live a life according to society’s mores; we are not celebrated and rarely held up as being anything beyond dependable. We non-prodigals toil mostly in anonymity and get our rewards from a sense of doing the right thing and a satisfaction that is internal; not external.

    How our culture responds to this type of story is puzzling. It seems we reward individuals who take the easier path, fall from grace and then ask to be re-embraced and forgiven. It reminds me of the comedian who told the joke of praying each year to God for a red bicycle at Christmas which he never received; then decided to steal the bike and ask for God’s forgiveness. I believe in forgiveness, but also believe in being a man who knows right from wrong and celebrating the non-prodigal life.

  7. A very nice blog, Amy.

  8. As usual Amy , your perspective on on life’s everyday battles and triumphs are right on mark. Keep up the great work !

  9. Sharon Peppers Says:

    Amy, i was moved by your words. We do need to re-define courage. Courage can indeed take many forms, whether its the police officer rushing toward the sound of gunfire, the kid who stands up for a fellow student being bullied at school or UN workers in Syria dodging sniper fire while delivering food/aid to civilians. Whether it’s placing ourselves in peril or being kind/sympathetic, it requires courage. Even what you did, completely uprooting yourself, making tremendous changes in your life and surroundings, that took guts. I’m certain that was not an easy choice. But, it was the right one for you. And you had the courage to follow-through. I also admire the resolve/courage it took for you to pursue a career in sports broadcasting. Sports is as you well know, still dominated primarily by men. I’m sure you still encounter much resistance at times. But, you press on. That’s courage.. just so you know. Writing this blog is brave; its not easy to open yourself up to strangers.

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