Courage may be the most important of all human virtues because a good case can be made that it unlocks all the rest. The other virtues and qualities of true character will never be known unless they are activated and expressed, and that takes courage. Courage initiates the action needed to actually embody such admirable qualities as generosity and just plain integrity. All these qualities are differentiations of that great reservoir of love at the core of every person’s being.
As human beings, we are, in a sense, called by life to release the prodigious substance and energy at our core in thought, word and deed. If the power of creation within each one of us remains locked up because we simply don’t have the courage to let it out and give it expression, our life tends to descend into mediocrity and what one person described as “death on the installment plan.” Courage unlocks the door to let our magnificence pour out.
I recall an instance when I was just in seventh grade that this really began to become clear to me. Each person in the civics class was required to make a presentation in front of the class. At that point in my life, I was a very shy and reserved boy, and the thought of speaking in front of the class filled me with terror. But I sensed it was a moment of truth in my life and I had to at least try.
When I got up before the class, I opened my mouth and tried to form a word, but I was so overcome with fear that hardly anything came out. I could hear the teacher from the back of the classroom saying, “Jerry, could you please speak up; we can’t hear you.” Then I looked out at my fellow classmates and could see their eagerness to hear what I might say. Yes, it was a moment of truth for the rest of my life. I knew I somehow had to summon the courage to speak or basically become a wimp for the rest of my life.
So with what was to me a super act of willpower, I somehow forced myself to speak. My courage was immediately rewarded with words that actually spilled out of my mouth. “Wow, what a trip; I’m actually communicating something!” And the more I spoke the more confidence I gained, and the words began to flow with less effort. When I reached the end, it seemed like a great victory had been won.
This event actually launched my speaking career. It opened the gates to the flood of creativity that I have to offer. For example, as a theological student majoring in preaching at Princeton Theological Seminary I spoke at a large Easter sunrise gathering in a football stadium. A few years later, I spoke at a huge crowd of antiwar protestors in an outdoor park. And as campaign manager for a man who was running for president of the United States, I spoke for the first fifteen minutes at 112 public meetings as we toured 28 states and the District of Columbia.
But this was all made possible by that initial act of courage that broke through the fear and sense of inadequacy that I experienced in that seventh-grade civics class. It still requires courage each time I speak or undertake any other creative endeavor. Perhaps you have found this to be true for you, as well.
What the world needs now more than anything else is for those who are consciously identified with the truth of love that they are to courageously speak and act, thereby unlocking that vast reservoir of creative energy within them and doing their part to spiritually regenerate the body of humanity.