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Courage

More than 40 years ago Rollo May made the following statement: “We are living at a time when one age is dying and the new age is not yet born.” Not only is this aphorism as applicable today as it was then, but also as it will likely be in the future. We always seem to be in transition, in process and in progress and not quite settled or satisfied with where we are.  

Rollo May made another observation: “The unfinished quality of creation is a part of the creative process itself”. We continuously experience change in every aspect of our lives, as we do from our past and anticipated consequences and opportunities. Most of us strive to reduce the gap between where we are and where we want to be. Such striving requires sensitivity, flexibility, responsibility, and wisdom—and underlying all these requirements is courage. 

This is precisely where we can express our personal humanity and create for ourselves a position of choice. More than 80 years ago, Aldus Huxley expressed the sentiment that we possess the gift of experience in conjunction with that of expression. In other words, experience is not just what happens to you, it includes the choices that we make about what to focus on, what meaning we attach to it, what feeling state to generate to support the actions we take to obtain the results we want. 

We become fully human by our choices and our commitment to them, but do we become who we can be by the choices we make or do our choices make us who we are and who we can become? This is not an either/or matter; but an act of creation—we are most truly ourselves when we choose, and the choices we make contribute to who we become. Our worth and dignity result from the responsibility we take about the decisions we make. Choice is what we are about, and through choice we become who we can be. We have the capacity to change—we simply have to decide if we want to. 

A curious paradox of courage is that it involves our commitment to the awareness that we might be wrong. The relationship between our convictions and our doubts is critical. Absolute conviction is dangerous, characteristic of dogmatism, fanaticism—blocking off new truths and self-doubts, some of which we may are not aware. It is much safer to have doubts accompanied by the courage to move ahead in spite of those doubts. The person with the courage to believe and admit his doubts is flexible and open to new learnings. 

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