Yesterday we honored the memory of John Lewis as a fine model of what it means to be human highlighting his call for “standing firm” in resisting injustices. Courage was a mark of his life and being. Courage is one of the important “10 C’s.” Without it, compassion and justice-making are not possible.
Courage, as Aquinas taught, is the most basic of all moral virtues; without courage no other virtue is sustained or sustainable.
Fear will accomplish little or nothing and it will taint whatever it touches. Courage stands up to fear. None of the Ten C’s we are speaking of will be brought into practice if we cannot stand up to fear and work out of courage. The word “courage” comes from the French for a “large heart.” We need to expand our hearts.
Cosmology helps us to do that, for it sets our lives in a larger context and awakens awe; so too does joy that “expands the heart”; so too do letting go, facing chaos and darkness, so too does increased creativity which expands our “moral imagination” as M. C. Richards put it; and compassion too expands the heart. Courage is what the “spiritual warrior” or “prophet” majors in.
Some people ask: How do you teach courage? Is courage teachable? We can study the teachings of wisdom traditions as to how to develop the prophetic and warrior side to ourselves and how to encourage its development in self and others. In these ways we can teach courage.
We can learn from persons of courage. John Lewis was such a person. The civil rights movement gave birth to many courageous activists. Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth was a civil rights minister in Birmingham, Alabama during the most dire times of Ku Klux Klan resistance to civil rights. The Klan bombed his house and beat him with chains three times and Sheriff Bull O’Connor arrested his eight and ten year old children.
I asked Rev. Shuttlesworth: “Where did you get your courage?” He replied:
You can call it courage. But I call it trust. When they bombed my house and I walked out of it alive I said to myself: ‘They cannot kill me. Oh, they might kill my body, but they cannot kill me and they cannot kill the movement.’
Courage, like any virtue, takes practice. Finding one’s voice develops courage. So do practices of letting go and letting be. Meditations, tasting calmness and learning to be at home with solitude—all these practices are ways to grow in courage as well.
Courage is also found in community. Being with others who share commonly held values is a great support in taking courageous action.
Protesting together builds up courage, knowing you are not alone. Finding a courageous community to share with can increase the joy and the fun of standing up and being counted.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human, pp. 121-126.
Banner Image: Congressman John Lewis, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and civil rights leaders mark the 50th Anniversary of the Equal Rights Marches from Selma to Montgomery at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.Photo uploaded to Flickr by Nancy Pelosi.
How have you learned courage in your life experience? Who have been your teachers? Are you also a teacher of courage?
The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human
The A.W.E. Project reminds us that awe is the appropriate response to the unfathomable wonder that is creation… A.W.E. is also the acronym for Fox’s proposed style of learning – an approach to balance the three R’s. This approach to learning, eldering, and mentoring is intelligent enough to honor the teachings of the Ancestors, to nurture Wisdom in addition to imparting knowledge, and to Educate through Fox’s 10 C’s. The 10 C’s are the core of the A.W.E. philosophy and process of education, and include: compassion, contemplation, and creativity. The A.W.E. Project does for the vast subject of “learning” what Fox’s Reinvention of Work did for vocation and Original Blessing did for theology. Included in the book is a dvd of the 10 C’s put to 10 video raps created and performed by Professor Pitt.
“An awe-based vision of educational renewal.” — Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.