Choose 'courage' as your word for 2018

Courage is refined, renewed and revealed in ordinary everyday living. Courage is never the preserve of the heroes or the powerful. The choice to choose courage for daily living is life-altering. How about choosing the word “courage” as your daily word for 2018?

Here is what’s fascinating about courage: The root word for courage is cor – it is also the Latin root word for heart. An early meaning of courage was the capacity to speak about everything on your heart by speaking your mind.

In other words, courageous people speak their minds in a heartfelt way; to be heartfelt about life is to be courageous enough to speak your mind. There is a ying and yang to choosing courage.

For some people, courage is not a luxury to be chosen; it is the fuel that enables survival or the compass that charts your day. Such people may include those surviving in refugee camps; the terminally ill parent providing for a child; survivors of sexual abuse or sex trafficking; grandparents raising their grandchildren because the parents are unable to; or a chronically unemployed person.

So what does it mean to choose courage as your word for 2018?

Courage is a word to reflect on and to go deeper with; a word to be placed on your screensaver, refrigerator, desk or nightstand.

On one level it means using it as a daily mantra, including the word courage in your quiet time, prayers or meditations. It is a word to reflect on and to go deeper with; a word to be placed on your screensaver, refrigerator, desk or nightstand.

On another level it invites you to choose and risk a more heartfelt way of living and engaging with others. In the age of defriending people on social media who don’t share every view of yours or the bombastic brigade of the self-righteous, the choice to be courageous is a choice to be human, humble and happy.

Here are some expressions of courage to choose this year.

Courage to love who you are. Yes, you are part of a “tribe,” or even several “tribes,” but your primary tribe is being human. You can only fully embrace your humanity by loving yourself – with all of your foibles, not in spite of them!

The reason this is vital is that until you love yourself as you are today, you will forever hold back from offering your unique life and contributions to the world. Someone may have labeled you or attributed a series of litmus tests to your existence. Choose to take one small step at a time to step beyond those narrow enclosures to love who you are and who you are made to become.

Courage to be generous. To live in a heartfelt way invites you to be attentive to those around you and especially to those you do not know, understand or agree with. Pulling up the drawbridges is a dead-end choice to live in fearful isolation. You are too big for that; we are each too significant for such an impoverished way of life. A courageous life is infinitely more vibrant!

So practice generosity in your thinking about others, in your willingness to talk to those who are not exactly like you. Be willing to engage with an open and generous heart and mind. Financial generosity is wonderful, but it often creates a moat between the giver and the recipient. Generosity of spirit, thinking and conversation invites you to unexpected new life.

Courage to use your voice. You can be in tune with your heartfelt reactions to life and aware of what is on your mind. But that is like cooking and not eating, or praying and not acting. Your voice is your delivery system to those around you and to the world. To not use it is like having a brain and not using it.

When you have the courage to love who you are and the courage to be generous in your dealings with others you have already prepared yourself to use your voice. Speak to the heartfelt need to appreciate and celebrate our shared humanity, to choose disagreement over demonizing and embrace respect over righteousness. Your voice will quiver at first but soon you will find the right track for using it.

Courage to meet, engage and know. The Dalai Lama is popular because of his generous spirit and observations such as “my religion is kindness.” Likewise, the generous spirit of South African Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is reflected in the belief that we are each made for goodness. Surely kindness and goodness are the marks of a courageous life?

Will your courage allow you to seek out someone, or even several people, whom you do not know; possibly people you know only as a stereotype? Someone from a different religion or political affiliation; someone whose race or culture is different than yours? The courage here is to meet and engage in a heartfelt way and thereby begin to know the person. This courage replaces a stereotype and caricature with a fellow human being. 

As you choose the courage to love who you are, to be generous, to use your voice and to meet, and to engage and know others, notice the subtle shifts in your life. Notice new delight in life and joy in your encounters.

Your heartfelt courage opens new windows beyond who is right and who is wrong. You will be speaking your mind and expressing what is in your heart with heartfelt generosity.

Be prepared for courage to lead you into a rich and more textured life!

Robert V. Taylor is President of the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation in New York. He is also a speaker and author of “A New Way to Be Human” and the forthcoming “21 Days to Reboot Your Life.”