As this decade comes to a close, I’ve been thinking about the past 10 years and what I would change if I could live them over again. I’ve also been contemplating what I want to accomplish in the future. I know setting goals is important, but it’s also terrifying. What if I work toward something and never achieve it? What if I’m confronted with the stark reality of my own limitations? What if I’m wrong?

I started thinking about courage and how it impacts our lives.

Courage – valor, boldness, bravery – is something we all aspire to have. Why do we lose ourselves in epic sagas like Lord of the Rings or Star Wars? Maybe we want to see small parts of ourselves in the protagonists, hoping that – when faced with overwhelming odds and inevitable defeat – we would do the same thing. We’d embark on the perilous road to Mordor and climb Mount Doom. We’d face the First Order with nothing but a light saber and a little bit of hope.

But the many challenges of our day-to-day lives can feel more perilous than a fictional story. While we may not be battling an evil military dictatorship, there are many times when we fail to do what we know we should. We take the easy way out. We stay silent. We go along with the crowd. We allow the world to push us down, keeping us in a state of mind-numbing resentment, complacency and defeat. If we ignore our desires, hopes and aspirations, we’ll never know the bitter taste of failure, and doesn’t that make life easier and less painful?

It takes courage to face life – in all its uncertainty and unfairness – with a blind faith and optimism that’s undermined by logic. Courage is setting boundaries for yourself and knowing what you’re worth – at home, with friends, in the workplace. Courage is the willingness to listen to others and the humility to admit we’re wrong. It’s leaving a situation – a job, a romantic relationship – that’s no longer good for us, even though the future remains unclear.

Maybe that’s why so many people are miserable and lonely. It’s hard to make friends and invest in people. It’s hard to show someone you care. It’s hard to tell people how you feel. It’s hard to share parts of ourselves that we work so hard to keep hidden. It’s hard to show kindness when it’s undeserved. It’s hard to forgive. It’s hard to keep trying after a loss. It’s hard to listen more and speak less. It’s hard to stand up for ourselves and others in the face of injustice. It’s hard to be alive, especially in a world where we’re just as flawed, broken and insecure as everyone else.

Hopefully, you won’t have to look far to find heroic role models in your own life. I’m lucky that my parents are two of the most courageous people I know. They never fail to show acceptance, forgiveness and love – in their lives and the community. They give – never asking for recognition or expecting anything in return. Their lives are brimming with purpose and an unwavering belief that God placed them on earth to help as many people as possible, and it’s evident through the many small acts of courage and selflessness they perform each day.

I hope to focus less on myself and more on others in 2020. I hope to encourage the people in my life to be better. I hope to be better. I hope to smile in the face of adversity, to be less cynical and more honest, to turn small acts of compassion into daily habits.

I hope to be more courageous.

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in that gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

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