“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”
― Maya Angelou
Self-reliance is one of the character traits most often touted by writers, philosophers, and self-help book publishers. But is courage the SAME as self-reliance, or are they completely separate character traits?
As someone who has had to ask for help from others recently – which in itself, is a humbling experience – I would argue that courage is separate from self-reliance.
Maya Angelou, a world-renown poet and civil rights figure, has some things in common with me – an organic, down-to-earth relationship with God; a “rising-up” after a “falling-down” from a childhood trauma; a gritty, no-nonsense understanding of love and compatibility; a belief that you should “make sure that what you say is the truth, but don’t tell everything you know.” I have always loved the courage of Maya’s poetry, her refusal to follow a rote, predictable, poem style; and her ability to speak of the hard things, the grime and the wonder of life, and the way that she surrounded herself with a small circle of beloved and trusted folks but left her heart vulnerable to the pains and the beauties of this world.
Self-reliance is “I can do all things, on my own, under my own steam, and I don’t need nobody’s help to get there.”
Courage is “I can do all things, through Christ who strengthens me; and when I am not able, I can – and will – ask for those who are around me, to reach a warm hand out to me and come alongside me.” Courage is recognizing the value of strong people in your life, who can and will help. Courage is seeing that a sense of compassion should extend to your self. Courage is knowing that you can – and will – reach a hand out – or down, as soon as you have recovered your self; but when in need, won’t be afraid to say, “I am not able to do this alone.”
There’s nothing more frightening, in a way, than a self-reliant person to reach out and say YES, I will let you help me. There’s nothing less familiar to a strong mother. There’s nothing more humanizing than being on the other side of the outstretched hand.
I think Ms. Angelou would approve.