Friday, January 1, 2016

In the Name of Courage

Loyalty, a worthwhile trait it may be, and often it is elevated to the highest standing among the qualities required for true friendship, but it pales in comparison to that noble trait of Courage.

To be clear - not the courage to take action in your own life, to keep on trying, to make a change or to follow your dreams, but the quality that allows you to stand up for a friend, when you know they are in the right and when it would ruin your reputation to side by them.

Yes, that kind of courage. The tough kind.

Often relegated to the military, long forgotten as a foundation for relationships, courage stands underrated these days.

Humans have a profound reverence towards courage when it is embodied by historical figures. Those historical figures stand out, as the very best of humanity. And yet when it comes to our every day relationships, and more specifically, when it comes to loyalty in our relationships, the value of courage is forgotten.

Demonstrations of courage are most often frowned upon, at worse they are perceived as foolishness, bravado, absence of maturity, inability to reconcile opposites. A person who takes a stance is seen as 'difficult to work with' or as 'splitting up the family'. We are afraid to rock the boat and to choose a side, and those who do are labeled black sheep.

In retrospect, it is those black sheep that history remembers. In the same way, you can bet that it is those black sheep that stood up for them when no one else would that friends will remember. Because it is easy to be loyal when all odds are in your favor, when your reputation is not at stake and the costs are low, but in times of crisis, it is courage not loyalty that will determine character.

Courage deserves mention because it is through this virtue that the most solid friendships are forged and through its force that human bonds truly shine.

In times of war, it is courage, not loyalty, that will see you hide and save the lives of your endangered friends, and extend a hand to those strangers who are similarly oppressed.

In the advent of a great injustice, it is courage that will allow you to put yourself in unfavorable light to stand up for a friend - often, at the risk of your life and your job.

It is courage that will allow you to give your all, when you know, deep down, you possess nothing yourself and are at risk of becoming destitute.

It is courage that will see you sever ties with, confront, or refuse to engage those who have imperiled or hurt those you love.

It is courage that prompts you to speak up and make a fool of yourself for the sake of defending a loved one.

Through your acts of courage, you are making a public choice for all to see. This position is often difficult and places you under a vulnerable light - it is this which is the true test of loyalty.

And so I put it to you, what use is loyalty, or even, what use is believing in your friend, or having the same convictions as your friend without the courage to go with it?

For lack of courageous saviors, people have ended up in concentration camps, alone or dead.

Courage is highly compatible with the idea that humans can only truly be friends with a few people. Not hundreds. Not thousands. You might think your sociability and your affability serves you well and that you can befriend more than a hundred souls but if you are to be a loyal friend, remember that you cannot please everyone.

Because when you are forced to make a choice, when you are dislodged from your fence and courageously stand by those you are loyal to, you will no doubt be forced to leave others behind.

And that, in itself, takes courage.