An Encouraging Word — The nature of courage

Take courage and be stouthearted. Psalm 31:25

Fr. Ron Knott.2012-wOn June 23, 2013, Nik Wallenda walked 1,300 feet across the Grand Canyon on a two-inch wire, without a harness, 1,500 feet in the air. Some called it courageous. I call it foolhardy.

What’s the point other than making him “famous?” So what if he “made it” without killing himself?

Foolhardy people are bold in a negative sense. They simply perform sensational stunts that are unwisely rash and reckless. Juveniles carrying out dangerous, crude, self-injuring feats on TV shows like “Jackass” are not courageous. They are merely foolish, taking stupid risks to attract attention.

Courageous people are bold in a positive sense. Their acts have a point and grand purpose. The people aboard Flight 93, who prevented the terrorists from attacking the United States Capitol, were courageous.

Rosa Parks, refusing to give up her seat on the bus, was courageous. The police, firefighters and citizens who rushed into buildings to save lives on Sept. 11, 2001, were courageous.

Charles Lindbergh, making the first non-stop flight from New York to Paris, was courageous. Anne Frank and her family, living in secret and quiet to hide from the Nazis, were courageous. Mother Teresa, living among the poorest of the poor and helping them thrive, learn and grow, was courageous.

Not all acts of courage need to be newsworthy to be defined as brave. It occurred to me the other day that I constantly meet people, as a priest, who exhibit great amounts of courage in their daily lives. They are not famous. They often go unnoticed, but I am constantly inspired by their courage and I am filled with wonder at the grace God gives them to face each day.

I know truly courageous people who have stood up against unfair social or economic practices, racism and prejudice. I know people who have left abusive relationship even when they had no idea where to turn, stood up to bullies to help others and helped people or animals in need, even when it put them in danger.

Many of these profiles in courage are friends and many of them are former parishioners. They are the selfless people who tend to elderly parents and spouses suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, who hang in there for family members with schizophrenia, who nurture children with special needs.

There is yet another kind of courage, the courage it takes to stand up for yourself and not let others define you, the courage it takes to engage in a new experience even when you are scared to death and the courage it takes to ask for help when you realize that are powerless over drugs or alcohol.

In my case, it is the courage it takes to get on an airplane by myself, fly to another country, stand before a big group of strangers and speak to them for a week.

And, yes, it sometimes takes more courage to live than to die.

Father J. Ronald Knott

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