Why do some people seem to have the courage to face trials and come out the other side standing strong?
Think about the people you know who have been faced with a life-threatening event or illness and who have confronted their situations with strength and grace.
These days many of us find ourselves in situations where we need a little inspiration on the resiliency front. Some of us are facing fallout from the economy, a lost job or a foreclosed house. Others, a lousy diagnosis or chronic illness, a fractured relationship, addictions, violence, and other uncertainties. When these most terrible of circumstances happen, it can feel like the world is closing in on us.
So how do we muster the courage to face life’s challenges with courage and determination? Experts who have studied the phenomenon of survival say that survivors, and “thrivers,” as we call them, have certain traits in their personality that help them overcome difficult situations from everyday stresses to major life challenges. Those who have lived through these challenges also agree that the capacity for courage has been paramount in finding renewed hope, much-needed energy, and the ability to lift their spirits once again.
The good news is that courage is a survival skill that can be learned. And if we learn how to tap into our inner courage, it can lead to increased success at work, improved relationships, and a vastly brighter outlook on the future. As Joseph Campbell writes in The Power of Myth: “The courage to face the trials and to bring a whole new body of possibilities into the field of interpreted experience for other people to experience—that is the hero’s deed.”
We’ve learned that even when the worst happens, the human spirit can survive and thrive. Moreover, trying circumstances show what we are made of. As the American patriot Thomas Paine said when it looked as though colonists were going to lose the War of Independence, “These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
At that time, some were giving up and walking away because the struggle was getting tough. Thomas Paine was really saying, “This is how we’ll see what your spirit is really made of.”
Excerpt from The Courage Companion by Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammons.
Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammons will be at The Book Stall on Friday, November 19 at 7 p.m. to sign copies of their book.
The Book Stall is at 811 Elm St, in Winnetka.