-Gandhi (by way of my friend Walter)
Note: A “Google” search for this quote shows it most commonly written as “Be truthful, gentle and fearless.” However, Walter’s rendering (and his timing in sharing it) resonated deeply with me, so this is what I’m sticking with. This is last in a series of blog entries based on each line.
Of all three admonitions, be courageous is the one I resist the most. At present, when I hear and ponder it, it sounds foreign and strange. But then, lately, not much about my life feels certain. Perhaps I am just becoming more conscious of the reality that I am in control of precious little (unsettling news for even a minor control freak!).
This growing awareness is what drives me to rely on God. Recently I reread a piece put out by the Third Order Franciscans that notes that St. Francis found strength in realizing how weak he was, how completely dependent on God. This idea is shared by various 12 Step communities who know that recovery begins when a person is able to recognize and admit their utter powerlessness.
Most recently, I have had the privilege of watching my dear friend Caroline receive a cancer diagnosis with incredible openness and grace. Through example, she will teach those around her a great deal as she walks through the coming months, with her characteristic commitment to honesty and conscious living.
Maybe the reason I prefer my friend Walter’s version of this Gandhi quote over the more common rendering is because of this final line, “Be courageous.” It offers greater possibility for me than the line Be fearless. In the words of Mark Twain “Courage is not the absence of fear. It is acting in spite of it.” This ministry to which I have been called – this “church without walls” – is as enlivening as it is frightening. A highly respected colleague, with whom I have not yet had a chance to become personally acquainted, told me at a recent clergy gathering: “You have cajones!” I must make a point of getting to know this colleague better.
Courage comes from the Latin to mean heart. The work of the heart is more solid and grounded than pure emotion. It may utilize the gifts of logic and reason but it is not constrained by them. Fearlessness I may never know. But courage — courage is available to us all.
Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord. (Ps 31:24)