Courage – The Most Powerful Yet Extremely Underrated Virtue

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When I was little about eight years old, my parents would occasionally ask me to sing a song or recite a poem in front of my dad’s friends who came over for evening snacks. Before singing, my mom would smile and tell me to sing from my heart without any fear. Though right from childhood we are often taught to be fearless; yet our actions are consistently judged by what others would deem to be fit or proper. It is a common practice to choose safe career options, to copy the behavior of successful people around us and to lead a similar life as others in society. Success is applauded and appreciated however; failures are frowned upon. People conveniently forget the risks taken to achieve success and the failures that each risk brings along with itself; only to turn into success in that one single shot. They say practice makes a man perfect. However, none of us wish to see the hard work that it takes to reach perfection. I wonder if all such people had worried about what others would think of their failed attempts, they would have never been able to become who they are now. It is only because of the greatest virtue – courage, that we are able to grow much more than we can ever imagine. I am constantly reminded of a simple yet important lesson from my childhood days that still remains close to my heart.

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Back when I was a child; I was really fascinated with everything my brother had, be it his school bag or his stationary or his shirt or practically anything that he called out as his possession. I always wanted to have it or at least use it for once. Some of you can relate to this and some might even think I was a mean little sister but that’s not why I did that. I adored my elder brother so much that I always wanted to be like him. So, one day my dad bought a brand-new bicycle for my brother. I used to see him ride every single day round and round this huge field near our house. My brother was polite enough to let me ride his bicycle but I was short and my feet never touched the ground. Therefore, I wasn’t able to ride it. Nevertheless, every time I saw him ride his bike past me; my face would lit up with joy. The excitement in his eyes, his hair fluttering in the wind made me crave for riding my own bicycle one day. Eventually, after a year or so, I got a bike of my own. My eyes twinkled with excitement to be able to ride my very own bike just like my brother. I was fortunate enough to have my dad and my brother both give me riding lessons. However, no matter how much I practiced, I often ended up falling down and getting myself bruised. At times; I thought a bus was coming right at me or some other times children playing across the street accidentally came in the middle of the road. I would panic lose control and bump my cycle into the neighbor’s garden. I have always been this fearful little kid. I tried to run away from intense situations and completely change my way instead of facing things head-on. Strange people after lots of scolding from random people for wrecking their backyards, and coming back home every other day with bruises on arms and knees, it was just high time and I completely gave up. I thought I was better off walking than riding my ridiculous bike. I would walk if I was asked to buy some grocery from the market and make up some excuse for not riding the bicycle. Sometimes, I would just take a bus or an auto if I had to go somewhere. Other times, my brother or my dad would drop me off if I had to go somewhere.

Every day; I saw my bicycle standing right there in one corner of the garage covered by specks of dust and cobwebs that seemed even denser day after day. After seeing all of this, one day my mom called out for me and asked why I stopped riding my bicycle. I couldn’t tell her the truth that I was afraid and thought I can’t do it. So, I made up some excuse saying bike riding was really uncomfortable for me. At first, she carefully listened to me and then said, ‘It’s okay to fall but it takes a lot of courage to stand up and try again. Life always has new challenges in store for you. Would you prefer to quit every single time you fail and not learn anything new or would you choose to stand up and try yet again to appreciate the beauty in learning new things in life?’ Her words cast a spell on me. I got up, cleaned my bike and took it for a ride. That day I rode my bicycle like it was meant to be ridden with the thrill and excitement and the sheer joy of riding my bike.

Now, this simple story might seem like a very small thing to some of us. However; as a child, this fear was really creating problems for me. Firstly, I had to lie every time and I always felt the guilt in lying to everyone. And then the other issue was that I could see other children enjoying the bike ride and I felt so jealous of seeing them around my house. I wonder how simple lessons from our childhood can teach such valuable lessons in life. Even now, when I am in a difficult spot struggling to make a decision; I question myself- Is my fear of failure or fear of losing something stopping me from going ahead and experience new things. If the answer to this is yes, I simply pause and take a moment to reconsider my decision and try to choose courage over fear. Now, I am not saying that I am no more afraid to take risks or to live my life on my own terms. That’s still not the case, but I definitely strive to make decisions solely based on what I consider is appropriate for me without being apologetic to no one but me. My mother’s words still ring through my ears and inspire me to go beyond and experience what I could have never felt had I been stuck with my fears of failure, regret, loss, etc. I came across this beautiful and well-written quote by Nobel Prize Winner Andre Gide, “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore”. Let not obstacles break your spirt. Learn new things. Experience new ways of life because you get to live your life only once.

14 May 2021

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