Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Courage to Be...

By Amy Phillips-Gary

Today we celebrate the life and contributions to the world of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

Although there were certainly scores of people who also articulated their visions for a fairer world and made deep sacrifices in order to bring about significant change, King's name is almost synonymous with the Civil Rights movement during the 1950s and 60s here in the U.S.

Over the course of his life, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke many brave and stirring words that inspired hundreds of thousands of people. As he organized and led non-violent direct actions advocating desegregation and equal rights for African-Americans, he acted in ways that were indisputably courageous.

Do you consider yourself to be brave and courageous?

When I compare myself to someone like Martin Luther King, Jr., those words-- “brave” and “courageous”-- seem vastly inappropriate descriptions for what I do, where I've been and who I am right now.

After all, when is the last time that I faced down mobs of people who deem me to be inferior and even despicable solely because of the color of my skin? When is the last time that I spoke my truth in front of masses?


I'm starting to wonder, however, if this hesitation is somewhat of a cop-out. After all, when I belittle the challenges that I've overcome and I discount my own vision for the future, I am somewhat “off the hook.”

If I don't consider myself brave, I don't have to do more than just get by and try to maintain the status quo of my life.

Like me, you might look at someone like Martin Luther King, Jr. and balk at the idea of even considering your path in life or your contributions to the world to be as significant or courageous.

I'm not advocating a competition between any of us and someone like King. Instead, I'm suggesting that if we all can step up and acknowledge the ways that we have been and are courageous in our lives, perhaps we can nudge ourselves out of that status quo and take even more brave steps.

Who knows where this will lead us?

Bravery can take many forms.
As you might already know, there's not just one way to be brave. When you acknowledge your own courage-- in the past and present-- you can almost always step more fully into your own personal power.

It is from this place of empowerment, that you can find yourself making the changes that you never thought you'd successfully make. The closer you get to your vision, the more that you, those around you and the entire world can potentially benefit.

It all comes to down to this: When we each can stand fully and authentically in our own power, there's no need for any of us to put another down, battle over supposedly scarce resources or be anything less than loving and compassionate.

I encourage you to look at someone like Martin Luther King, Jr. and celebrate his courageous acts. Allow yourself to be inspired and to recognize that you are also courageous and brave, in your own way.

For example...
  • It can be brave to face the so-called mistakes of your past, forgive yourself and release them.
  • It can be brave to stop being a victim, to let go of the painful limits of this label and to forgive.
  • It can be brave to own up to a habit that you've developed that is mostly holding you back.
  • It can be brave to take steps toward changing that limiting habit-- even if it takes several tries.
  • It can be brave to speak your truth-- even if you believe that nobody else agrees with you.
  • It can be brave to speak your truth-- even if you think that nobody else is listening.
  • It can be brave to do the unexpected, the unapproved of or the unconventional thing when you are called to do it.
  • It can be brave to make peace with where you are and continue to line yourself up with the future you're dreaming about.

How can you more fully honor the ways in which you have been brave in the past? How can you honor the courageous words and actions that you are taking today?

What are the brave steps that you are inspired to take next?

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