A few years ago, a friend of mine provided me with a useful definition for courage: “the ability to act rightly in the face of discouragement.” Passionately pursuing a life of purpose and meaning may challenge us beyond anything we have previously experienced. Sometimes, hanging on to a shred of life, and the feeling of being alive, is all we can do. Yet, to not pursue, and to not hang on, is to self-determine defeat.

I have seen courage around me of late. People continuing to put one foot in front of the other, doing what they must to ensure that others in their circle of influence (family, friends, coworkers, etc) enjoy the opportunity to experience full life…while they wonder if they will make it themselves.

Somewhere along the way I came across an expression that has helped me to calibrate my decisions in tough situations: “Do what’s right, and deal with the consequences.” Combining this with staying “engaged in the moment”, can bring a focus to action that maintains sanity in the midst of chaos, or despair.

Ironically, I note that, in hindsight, painful experiences have served to produce the greatest depth of character, skill and confidence in my life. These attributes would serve anyone well, so why would we want to avoid that which would bring them into our lives?Well…because they arrive with pain. They are lonely. They question the core of existence in a manner that makes comfort a forgotten reality…almost as if we now live in an alternate one.

“We had nothing to do with the creation of our life at the beginning, so why do we worry about tomorrow?”

I have asked this question of many people over the past few years, and the most interesting answer I have received is, “Because we have agency”. Agency is “the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power” (Merriam-Webster). I get that we have the ability to choose, to be proactive and to respond, but why would we choose worry? Why lonely? Why not rather choose to empower our passion on purpose and embrace our challenges with courage?

My life coach tells me that “feelings are vibrations that happen in our body- caused by thoughts, not circumstances.”

It should be that easy I suppose…and maybe it is for some…but not for all. It is perplexing to me, for as much as I know this to be true, I still find myself battling with feeling at times. Some days it is not “worry” so much as “numb”.

Does courage admit this and press forward anyway, or deny it and try to keep up a good appearance?

These days there seems to be as much, or even more to worry about than in the past: global financial crisis, high levels of personal debt, and the uncertainty of future employment for many, broken relationships, health challenges, uncertain futures…

There are challenges that assault our lives with hurricane force…others that come in silence, a feeling of disconnection amidst the crowd.  We cannot control every circumstance. We cannot dictate every outcome.We are left with our thoughts, feelings and choices. We can choose to do the right thing, but it will take courage to act rightly when we are discouraged.

We should not walk it alone. En-courage, is also important…that we come along side each other and draw out the ability to act…raising the level of courage within each other so that we can take those next steps. In a manner of doing so we also remind each other that, even if everything is stripped away, the pure essence of life (and relationship) stands as an amazing gift.

This is true for friends, for family, for organizations…for all…yes?