4 Ways of Living Out Courage


If you could crack open your kid's heart and mind and give them a handful of life-shaping virtues, what would they be? Have you thought through the alternatives? Do you do anything to nurture these virtues on a regular basis? Or do you major in the minors?

"Make your bed!""Stop arguing with your brother/sister!""Remember to say 'please' and 'thank you.'" "TIE YOUR SHOES - AGAIN!!"

I am the master of non-stop instruction, and, not only are my children tired of hearing from me, I'm tired of hearing from me. I spend far too much time consumed with the insignificant things on life's path rather than on the big stuff. (Are matching clothes truly important?)

Among our family goals, one of the big wishes I have for my kids is to have courage.

I want them to have the ability to see the dangers in the world and still move forward. I don't care if they are afraid of the dark, but I don't want them paralyzed by it. I'm unconcerned if they fear the unknown, but I want them to persevere even when the outcome is uncertain.

One of the last things I want is a fearful child.

But, how do I instill courage in their hearts?

I've been grappling with this question for a long time. My first inclination is to EXPLAIN courage. (I DO like words!) I want to tell stories and give quotes about setting aside fear and the rewards of being bold.  I want to read them biographies and tell them Bible stories of women and men who displayed great courage (or, as cautionary tales, stories of those did not show said courage).

However effective my words and stories might be, there's one thought that haunts me; what if my kid's courage could never exceed my own? Or, said another way, what if my children will only be as brave as my actions demonstrate?

Would they have enough material to encourage and inspire? Are they seeing me live out the virtue I want them to have?Would they be well equipped to deal with the world if I was their only model? Are they experiencing fearlessness at home or just a bunch of anxiousness and worry?

I've come to believe the BEST chance my kids have of learning bravery is to see it in action.

There's no escaping that I must model the pluck and backbone I want them to have. I must demonstrate courage and show them how to do the same.


Now what?

Although my plan is evolving, there are at least four things I know I (we?!) need to do.

1. Take risks

Whether it's facing change at work, saying "yes" to adventures, or simply meeting new people, kids notice nerves and they pay attention when we move out of our comfort zones. We should show fear the door and make gutsiness our habit!

2. Face and purge neuroses

Afraid of crowds? Public speaking? Clowns (no, really?!)?  Whatever your issue is, talk to your kids and deal with the issue in full daylight.  Nothing could be more inspirational!

3. Celebrate learning, not just wins

When you take risks, sometimes you crash and burn. That's OK if you decide to celebrate the effort and the learning, not just the win.

4.  Laugh

I don't know why laughing works, but when fear meets laughter, fear loses...every time. There's something about saying, "oh well" with a laugh that helps. Let's model laughter!

I don't want to be average - to worry about whether I'm running late, or if I have the "right" clothes for the party. I want to show excitement about the unknown adventures in life.

There's a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson which captures my mood perfectly.

When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Let's be BOLD adventurers!!