Without courage, you won’t do anything of value. Think back to your accomplishments. You put time and effort into achieving a goal that improved your life in some way. You may have passed an exam, completed a piece of art work, got that new job or raised a family. It could have even been finally leaving that deadbeat job or that relationship that wasn’t working out.
You probably faced self-doubt, anxiety or discomfort as you agonised about whether you were going to fail or whether you were making the right decision. These emotions are magnified when that goal is really important to us.
Maya Angelou said it best in the clip below. Courage is the most important of all of our virtues because it drives you towards the others, no matter how difficult it is to embody them.
Forgiveness and Courage
Being able to move on from a conflict and the pain it has caused you, is a decision that you make to forgive yourself and the other person. Imagine how much courage it takes to ask for forgiveness, to face your emotions or to make the first move to resolve conflict.
It takes courage because conflict can define us. We start to believe that we are victims and the other person is the oppressor. We dehumanise the other person by saying that they are evil, mad, nasty or whatever else we can think of to justify how we behave towards them.
In group conflicts, we can find belonging in those mutual emotions towards the common enemy. It may even define us culturally if the conflict is historical. When you let go of conflict, what you may believe you are saying is, “I condone what you did.” Those who are part of the group conflict may interpret your forgiveness in this way and may turn against you. Maybe you find it hard to imagine who you will be without the anger you feel.
What you are really saying is, “I am done with feeling angry (or any other emotions) and I want to move on.” It’s not about condoning behaviour, becoming friends again if you don’t want to or even having any kind of relationship. It’s about relieving yourself of those emotions that hold you back from living life fully.
Don’t underestimate how much courage that takes and if you have forgiven somebody in the past, recognise that this took guts.
In essence, you’re going against the grain which is uncomfortable. The conflict may have torn you apart emotionally and it may involve somebody that you love, either as an aggressor or as a victim. In reality, you are choosing how you wish to respond to that conflict. And you do have a choice. You can continue to be exhausted and damaged by your own anger or you can choose to move on.
Facing Your Feelings
Anger can often be accompanied with shame, sadness, inadequacy or grief. As you delve deeper into the emotional impact of conflict, it takes a lot of courage to understand what is really triggering difficult emotions. You might be angry at your ex-partner for leaving you but is that anger linked to feeling abandoned by somebody you loved when you were a child?
Conflict also forces us to confront our self-esteem and it could shed light on our usual patterns of response and interaction with others. Real transformation takes place when you have the courage to be honest with yourself and realise that a different response is possible and sometimes necessary.
Let me tell you how long it took to face my own issues about male /female relationships. Years. I hid behind anger, I adopted a pretty blind and protective way of relating to men in every context and I dulled my own capacity to thrive because it was easier to carry on repeating previous patterns of emotional withdrawal. Mostly I wasn’t aware of my issues. I just couldn’t understand why I was being ignored by men at work or treated badly in my love life. It wasn’t until the death of my father that things came to a head. I explored my issues, inside and out, what they looked like, how they played out, what they made me feel like and how I saw the world in consequence. I recognise that every day, I have to be aware of my prejudices and choose not to slip back into those comfortable behavioural traps.
Observing how you react to conflict, especially with certain people, can help you understand yourself better. And it takes time, patience and valour.
Having the Courage to Make The Move
You also need to find courage to make the first move in resolving the conflict. I am always inspired by stories of reconciliation. Imagine the bravery of the victims of the South African Apartheid who came face to face with the murderers of their loved ones and listened as they described what they had done to them and where they were buried. It must have been devastating to hear about such graphic cruelty. It’s also courageous to admit to wrong-doing, as the perpetrators of those crimes did (although it helped that they were given criminal immunity).
One of the most courageous acts is to give and to receive graciously, an apology. Whilst you might not feel ready to do this, it will still take effort to put the feelers out there and see if the other person is willing to seek a mutually beneficial resolution to your conflict.
As usual, I’d love to read your comments so feel free to leave one !