Courage from the word couer (Fr. heart)
Conviction from the word convictio (L. proof of guilt)
(Com = with, together) + (vinceur = to conquer, find guilty)
Also associated with convicted and convince
Someone I thought I knew posted something that had me pondering how our hearts are often touched by an issue and we can choose to respond in a variety of ways. On one end of the spectrum are the people who simply ignore the truths as set before them. On the other end are those who sacrifice everything to right a perceived wrong. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle, neither choosing to ignore the truth while not quite prepared to sacrifice everything for the cause.
This topic recently came up with Rob and me, with his praising me for having a conscience. I thought his praise a bit undeserving; I can list many ways in which I compromise. Certainly, in this way I am the epitome of willing flesh but weak spirit. I can list a number of things I don’t do “on principle” and yet a still longer list of things I ought to do but make excuses for not doing. Furthermore, I can rationalize that some of my excuses are actually reasons but the truth is if I were truly committed to the idea then I would do whatever it takes to make it happen.
Or maybe not. I mean, there are those people who are—whether genetically, through nurturing, or a combination of the two—predestined to live lives of willing sacrifice. The reason such heroes as Mother Theresa, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi stand out is because, unlike the rest of us, they willingly lay down their life for something in which they believed. Two of these examples were even assassinated for doing what they believed in doing and even to this day there are Catholic nuns serving in other countries who are raped and murdered simply for trying to make other people’s lives easier and better.
The courage of conviction takes heart.
In pondering this dilemma, looking closely at my own hypocrisy in standing up for a cause, I realize that a part of the problem is having to dig deep enough to know what matters to me, to know myself well enough to know what I can and will sacrifice. Am I willing to risk my children’s lives for something I believe in? Dr. King was willing to do this although he hoped it wouldn’t come to that and, thankfully, it never did. Am I willing to give up the idea of children altogether? Okay, a little too late for that one but Mother Theresa made that decision for herself. Am I willing to put my personal life on permanent hiatus as Ghandi did?
The answer to all of these rhetorical questions is “No,” obviously. I simply am not convicted enough by any issue to lay it all on the line.
I consider the possibilities. Do I lack the faith, the belief, that what I do can and will make a difference? What can one small person do in the face of so much injustice? We all know that it is not one small person nor even one great person that will make a difference. Any of the above examples, had they worked alone, would have gone unnoticed and history would not remark upon the changes they created in their societies. Instead, they had others, working alongside, supporting and encouraging them every step of the way. And yes, obviously, there were detractors, perhaps well-meaning friends and family saying they shouldn’t or mustn’t or even saying they were crazy to even bother.
So when I consider my small part as merely these meager efforts then it becomes easy, in the face of all that I would like to see changed, to despair. However, when I consider that I am taking one small step alongside tens or hundred or thousands or (dare I dream?) even millions, then my one small step feels like a gigantic leap of faith.