I was involved as one of the founding co-hosts of the The Courage To Come Back Awards 17 years ago. In lieu of the courageous recipients of the awards last night, I found this note that I wrote many years ago.
I used to think courage was a heroic act, a one time deal, where someone slayed the dragon, saved a child from a burning vehicle, the stuff you read about in People magazine. I now know courage has many faces. Courage is endurance, putting one foot in front of the other, trudging onward, despite the fact there is no end in sight. No apparent light at the end of the tunnel. Schizophrenics have described their disease this way to me. Courage can be the act of living when life seems unbearable.
It might be giving the best of yourself when life has given you the worst. I’ve met men and women who have done exactly this. Inspiring. Sometimes it means finally saying enough in an abusive situation, even as the terror of retribution consumes you. It can be facing the drink that has ruined a family and saying enough.
Courage. I’ve learned a lot about that word from the women and men who have received these courage awards. These are people who have lived the word courage. I have learned not to define courage by a narrow definition based on random acts of heroism, but to see the many faces of courage, to realize it’s grit and humanity.