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Courage From Feardom to Freedom

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. - Nelson Mandela

Often, courage and bravery are used interchangeably.

While they have similar manifestations, they are fundamentally different at their core. These differences can be traced back to the etymology of the words. The root word for bravery is the Italian word “bravo,” which means “bold” but also once meant “wild, savage.” The root word for courage, however, is “coeur”—the French word for “heart.”

Watch the video below to see what it looks like to act from the heart.

We have countless opportunities to confront fear.

When the choice to retreat or conquer stems from deep inside of you, that is the true test of courage. What causes you to take the risk? When, and why, do you defy your limits of possibility? And what helps you turn your fear into an expression of courage?

In this Value Spark we will explore the value of Courage and try to understand the conditions that allow it to guide our actions. We will also explore how courage can be destabilizing, and yet cause unbelievable ripple effects.

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The Courage to Be Yourself

If I am not for myself, who will be for me? - Pirkei Avot 1:14

“Just be yourself.”

It sounds so simple. The advice is stitched into pillows, plastered on Instagram pages and written on coffee mugs. But obviously, it is much easier said than done.

Who are you when there is nobody looking, when you aren’t somebody’s child, sibling, student, friend, teacher, parent? And what prevents that version of you from showing up?

Having the courage to be yourself and to understand your uniqueness is incredibly difficult. It leaves you exposed and vulnerable. Once you’ve been seen, it’s hard to hide and the possibilities of rejection – by self or other – are high. And yet, unveiling your true self is a glorious act of defiance that allows you to live a more honest, authentic and intuitive life.

How does one cultivate a sense of courage?

20 minutes

Maybe you’ve always been told you’re too loud, draw too much or not enough attention to yourself, take too many or not enough risks. Maybe you feel different or “Othered”; maybe you’ve had to fight to accept yourself. Are you or do you know someone like this?

In this exercise, you’ll have an opportunity to track how your conceptions of courage were shaped and identify an opportunity to bring yourself forward.

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The Courage to Listen

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. – Winston Churchill

Although salvation and relief can come from leaping forward, sometimes the most courageous act is the ability to sit in discomfort and uncertainty. It is the courage to listen rather than act, to submit rather than defy, and to risk not knowing the answers.

The temporary quieting of the self in order to make space for others isn’t easy. A story is told in the Talmud of Hillel and Shamai disputing over a particular interpretation, each asserting that the law was on their side. G-d ultimately sides with Hillel, for Hillel taught Shamai’s opinion alongside his own and even presented his position first.

Hillel’s courage to listen to Shamai was so profound that it ultimately caused G-d to side with him.

True listening is difficult. It may cause feelings of shame and discomfort, loss of pride, judgment and rejection. And it may force you to reexamine what you hold to be true.

But against all that, when have you had the courage to sit back, listen, and admit that there is something you need to work on?

20 minutes

Courageous Listening requires one to put aside their own assumptions and stereotypes and listen to another’s perspective with empathy. This opens one up to feel deeply for others, learn from their experiences, and formulate thoughts and opportunities of our own.

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The Call to Courage

Some time afterward, G-d put Abraham to the test. He said to him, “Abraham,” and he answered, “Here I am.” - Bereshit 22:1

At momentous points in our life, we must follow our inner convictions and be willing to take critical risks. Sometimes they are grand, and at times they are more measured. What do we intend to stand up for, who are we to make that statement, and what is the imprint that we want to leave on this world?

The call to courage comes as an internal reckoning or an external cry. It is often thunderous, but at times it can come in the form of a whisper, like G-d’s call to Abraham.

And when we are ready, then the reply is simple.

Hineni. I am here.

I am ready to heed the call and leap forward and act. I am willing to enter into the discomfort and follow my heart.

It's our time to serve the moment.

M² is privileged to partner with Serve the Moment, an initiative of Repair the World calling us to act with courage and imagine a society rooted in justice and equity.

20 minutes

Knowing our capacity to act with courage prepares us for the Hineni moments, the times we are caught off guard and called to show up. In this exercise, identify what the Courage to Act entails for you so you can dive right in when the opportunity arises.

Cultivating courage takes practice. We must come out of our comfort zone to grow. We must learn the art of when to listen and when to speak, when to act and when to hold back, when to paddle to ride a wave, and when to sit back to enjoy the calm waters.

It is an unbelievable act of faith, resilience and acceptance: An acceptance that life is hard; that worthwhile things take effort; that confrontation will be uncomfortable; that you may fail; and that you may triumph.

חזק ואמץ

May strength and courage guide all that you do.

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