“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid.”

Recapping the basics of courage we discussed last month, we first must start with strong beliefs and core convictions. Then these four things must occur:

1. That’s not right.
There’s something very important to us that’s not right or not how it should be.

2. I’m convicted.
We are internally and deeply convicted, as this does not align with our strong beliefs and core convictions.

3. It’s going to cost me.
There is a cost to action because people, things, or situations oppose us. The cost could be anything from embarrassment, our social standing, our relationships, our job, or even our life.

4. I have more strength than fear.
In order to act in a courageous way, our strength must outweigh our fear.

The phrase, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid,” was repeated several times in the Old Testament. Moses said this twice to the nation of Israel and to Joshua as he was handing off leadership responsibilities. God said it repeatedly to Joshua before they crossed the Jordan to enter the Promised Land. And King David said it to his son Solomon as he began the massive task of building the temple.

Why didn’t they just say, “Be brave.”?

We learned last month that courage is being guided by our strong beliefs and core convictions to right thing despite being afraid. So fear is in the mix when we talk about courage.

Picture an old fashioned scale with fear on one side and strength on the other. As an individual, we have to recognize not only that fear exists in a potentially courageous moment, but that strength has to outweigh fear in order for us to act. That’s why the Bible repeatedly puts these two concepts together: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid.” So individually we must summon the strength to overcome our fear so we can be courageous.

From a leadership perspective, courage in a leader inspires commitment from followers. “Courage is contagious,” says evangelist Billy Graham. “When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.” Courage by a leader inspires. Odds are that there are others who are similarly convicted, but either lack of strength or too much fear causes inaction. When you take a stand as a leader, you can shift the ratio of strength to fear in others in a way that inspires them to act.

Unfortunately, the most common response to a situation requiring courage is inaction, and there are consequences to passivity. Things that aren’t right continue to go unchecked. The people you lead or care for may be harmed in some way. And failure to act exposes your character. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

How to Develop and Demonstrate Courage (partially adapted from the book Derailed by Tim Irwin):

  1. Who do you know that is courageous? Reflect on what inner convictions and beliefs guide him or her.
  2. Read about courageous people. Google “Courageous People” and you’ll have access to many inspirational stories of courage.
  3. What are your strong beliefs and core convictions? Are they strong enough to provide the foundation for courageous actions?
  4. When you take a stand, make sure you have your facts right. Facts often separate the courageous from the foolish.
  5. Before acting, discuss with a trusted courageous friend for wise counsel. Remember that many will advise inaction either out of his/her personal fear and/or fear for your sake. You may have to stand alone.
  6. Only escalate to immediate, extreme action as a last resort. When appropriate, a longer period of discussion and processing can be transformational for all involved.

Reflection and challenge:

  1. What is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done in your life?
  2. Can you think of situations where you should have been courageous, but were not? How could you do better in a similar situation next time?