Risk And Courage

Courage is facing fear rather than denying it; it is rushing forward to face the problem, to confront the giant whose shadow looms larger in our imagination than in reality. Gus Lee

This is part three of our discussion about courage, inspired by Gus Lee’s wonderful book titled Courage: The Backbone Of Leadership.

Last week I had the opportunity to hear Gus speak to a group of business and civic leaders. During the Q&A, one listener asked what seemed to me to be an odd question. “I hear what you’re saying about the need for courageous leadership. But how do we do that without the risk of losing our jobs?”

How would you respond?

My take: courage is acting for right, regardless of risk to self. No risk, no courage required. So how does one act courageously without risk?

You don’t.

It seems a little like Jesus’ comments about loving our enemies.

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” [Matthew 5:43-47]

It’s easy to love the lovable and be kind to those who treat us kindly. But He says there’s not much reward for doing what everyone else does.

I think courage is like that. It’s easy to do the right thing when everyone else is doing it. Following the crowd and doing good is a good thing to do, but it doesn’t require much courage.

Courage manifests—or doesn’t—when the crowd’s going one direction and you know it’s not right. That’s what Gus calls a Point of Decision. That’s where you decide to go along and get along, or to act for what you know is right.

I haven’t always acted courageously. I identify numerous Points of Decision in my life when I allowed fear to dictate choices I knew to be wrong. Without exception, those are also Points of Regret. Short-term expediency at the expense of core values simply doesn’t produce actions of which I’m proud.

I can point to far fewer times when I’ve faced the fear and acted for right even when it involved risk. Most turned out well, some didn’t. But even the struggles are not cause for regret. I think there’s a lesson in there somewhere.

Courage isn’t easy; it is was it wouldn’t be in such short supply. I don’t like risk, and I don’t like fear. But I also don’t like regret, realizing that I’ve allowed fear to direct me away from truth.

I’m certainly not consistently courageous, but I’m trying to do better.

What are your thoughts about courage and risk?

Character is the result of sustained integrity and courage. It is possessed by a person with fixed habits of moral firmness and excellence who acts spontaneously for what is right. Gus Lee

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Copyright 2009 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance
. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

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