Other essays on this theme

Essay: "Courage"

by Jason S. Karch
It has become a habit of mine to make distinctions--to define terms. Not in the way some modern "defining" philosophies define their terms: I do so to knock dust off of those old, obscure, and often time dead old terms whose meaning in the world has been lost. In doing so I approach this old term "courage" with a sort of reverence towards what it conveys accompanied by a sadness for the fact that it is too many times worn like a polished badge of gold by the altogether unworthy.

Webster simply defines courage as bravery or boldness. Courage is much, much more than merely those things. Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It expresses the desire to progress, to overcome while exuding a certain ring of abrupt finality; but a finality that refuses to be clobbered by any tragedy that laughs at the actions taken by the courageous person as being futile. Courage is mostly a conviction that our destiny is neither driven nor directed by events of this world--tragic or otherwise...

If I am a fighter the use of my skills against an opponent effectively is largely the result of discipline, not courage. The same applies to soldiers whose discipline shapes them for combat, for war. True, it takes a measure of bravery and boldness in both instances and as brave as the men and women who defend nations are, courage is one of those rare and unique things that rests a few rungs higher on the ladder. Courage is that thing displayed by the farmer who fights cannons with axe handles out of his element--his only discipline being that fierce desire to protect his family and property based simply on the conviction that it is the right things to do. In this, not only is the farmer courageous; he is a hero.

As is common to the hero, courage is often quiet and humble wearing the mask of obscurity. Something is always lost when the true identity of a hero is disclosed so I hesitate to unveil the identity of a particular hero whom I have had the privilege to know. Yet, such quiet courage deserves attention. Still, a manner of discretion will be recognized--courage demands it.

Many years ago in a sleepy little town (that looking back proves to have been the home of many more heroes than my memory can pin down) one of my aunts was struck by those roaring thunders of tragedy that has left her in a wheelchair ever since. It is axiomatic that facing the finality of something like that is in itself heroic. The quiet courage is displayed well in my mind as I remember all of those family gatherings where a portion of her courage was dispatched among each of us through her gentle smiles or a ready hug. What is more pervasive to me today as I face a situation of my own making that echoes with finality itself, and now that I have came to understand that great mystery that is common among the courageous; the mystery of "Christ in you the hope the glory." It is this courage of my Aunt that shines brightest in my memory as I cannot think of many Sundays when the little town's Baptist Church missed her presence--if there were such Sundays, there were few. Her courage is revealed here in stark clarity as she faithfully relates to a God that promises those things that transcend trials and tragedies faced in this life. Promises that belong to her. The tragedy still haunts I'm sure--as much as my tragic mistakes haunt me and from such glaring courage I draw little grains of strength. The courage of a hero. The courage of a Christian...