What Color is Courage?

Courage.  The dictionaries (Oxford English, Merriam Webster, Cambridge) say that the word courage is a noun, an identifying word, and define it in the following way:  Strength of mind to carry on in spite of danger .  The moral strength to speak out against injustice when no one else will.  The quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty,danger, pain, etc., without fear.  The ability to do something that frightens one.

Recently, a former Olympic athlete decided to transform from being a man to a woman.  She has been speaking out about her life as a man and her recent transformation.  Her transformation, or rather her ‘coming out’ about her transformation has sparked quite the debate on social media sites.  I’ve been reading many articles lately on ‘true courage’ and what that involves.  Apparently many folks are under the impression that courage only comes in one color, and that color is Patriotic Red.   “Courage?  That’s not courage! Courage is the guys who fought at Normandy.”  “If you want to see REAL courage, visit Arlington Cemetery.”

Real courage, True courage.  What is real? What is true?  When my daughter stood up to the bullies in her school I considered her to be courageous.  When my friend fought diligently with his battle against cancer I considered him to be courageous.  When Jeter and Loving married in 1958 they demonstrated an act of courage.  Mother Theresa’s work in Calcutta showed great courage.   In 2012 Kimberly Wasserman courageously fought to shut down two of Chicago’s dirtiest coal mines.  When people of any color, race, gender, or religion step up and speak out against issues that are relevant to them, they are demonstrating an act of courage.

One of my favorite explanations of courage is from Harper Lee who so eloquently wrote in her novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. Mrs Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew.”

Please do not misunderstand my words.  I am grateful to the individuals who have served in the armed forces and their courage is not being diminished here.  What I am trying to convey is that my courage is not limited to Patriotic Red… It is Civil Rights Orange, and End Bullying Yellow; it is Defend the Environment Green, and Tolerance Blue; it is Religious Freedom Purple, and Fighting Addiction Pink; it is Human Rights Black, and Stand Up and Speak Out Brown; it is turquoise, and mauve, and gold. Courage comes in many colors; it is a rainbow of humanity.

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