Take Courage! (and know when to ask for help)


“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.

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