Courage is one of the core habits of character. Courage is the starting place for many positive character traits like humility, integrity, selflessness, duty, and positivity. Courage is also the starting place for many failures of character, like cowardice and pride. At our Refuel and Refocus in October, author and speaker Dave Anderson encouraged us with a message about exercising courage in our communication at work.
Dave began by looking at man’s original sin in the Garden of Eden as a prime example of giving into cowardice instead of responding in courage. When God asked the hiding Adam if he had eaten from the tree, Adam’s response was nothing but cowardice: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate,” (Genesis 3:12). Adam not only blamed Eve, he blamed God for giving him the woman! Adam allowed his fear to consume him, resulting in a cowardly rather than courageous response.
“If we do not choose courage, we are choosing cowardice,” Dave said, “Courage is a habit. You are not born with it, you develop it like every other habit.” Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Do the thing you are afraid to do and the death of fear is certain.” Courage in communication does not come from a pill or potion, but from facing our fears. Courage is not a magical power, but the result of practice and exercising our character in small things so we are ready when the big test comes.
Exercising courage is a lot like getting in shape physically. We know that we cannot get into shape by exercising only once a year or even once a week. If we want to get in shape, we must exercise consistently. The same is true with courage.
Our exercise must not only be consistent, it should also be uncomfortable. To see any results in the gym, we have to push ourselves to sweat and get uncomfortable. When we exercise courage in our communication, we should expect to be uncomfortable. We grow by working through discomfort. This is called courageous communication.
Courageous communication means saying what needs to be said, when it needs to be said, to whom it needs to be said. Another word for this is candor.
We need to say the right things at the right time to the right person. However, many times when we have a problem with a person, rather than going to that person in the right way at the right time, we tell everyone else instead. We sit around and talk about the person who has offended us, all the while waiting for them to come to us and fix everything. Such behavior is not courageous, but cowardly.
Jesus taught about courageous communication in this way, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” (Matthew 18:15) Jesus also taught, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)
In both of these instances, Jesus expects us to take the first step. Whether someone sins against us or we sin against another, the responsibility for courageous communication falls on us.
Although confrontation and conflict normally have a negative connotation, these interactions can be helpful. The goal of positive confrontation is reconciliation and improvement of the situation. This is exactly what the biblical proverb means when it says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) Friction applied at the right angle is what sharpens a blade. Likewise, positive confrontation and courageous communication helps us sharpen others and ourselves.
As we interact with others, we should challenge ourselves to always communicate with courage. We should say what needs to be said, when it needs to be said, to whom it needs to be said – all with the goal of sharpening ourselves and others. As we exercise courage in our communication, we build up one of the core habits of our character.
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