Along with our company Mission, our company Values help to direct our decisions around our operations. Our Values are the same as the 3 Tenets of a Hero: Courage, Honor, and Compassion. We teach our heroes that these tenets can help guide them in their actions and their life. We encourage our heroes to explore and define what the 3 Tenets mean to them. As an example, I thought I would provide some insight into what I believe each of these tenets means to me.
To me, courage revolves around three distinct actions:
- Doing what’s right despite conflicting emotions
Sometimes we know what needs to be done, but we are held back by powerful feelings such as fear, desire, or even detachment. Courage requires that I hold my internal code of ethics (I will talk more about this with the Tenet of Honor next week) as more important than my emotions. This is easy to write and quite another to enact. Our emotions often cloud our sense of right and wrong. It takes courage to access our internal code and stay true to this deep wisdom when we stand to suffer for our integrity. Perhaps the only antidote to this fear is the knowledge that we may suffer even more later in our life simply because we know that we compromised our most important values.
- Questioning my power
I think one of the greatest historical examples of this is WW2 German hero, Oskar Schindler. Schindler was a Nazi business man who used his connections and wealth to protect his 1200 Jewish workers from deportation and death… ultimately exhausting his company’s fortune and his own resources to save the lives of his employees. Schindler had enough status as a former Nazi spy and successful businessman to simply hand over his Jewish employees and pursue other opportunities. He was in a position of power where he could benefit from the system in place. He was an opportunist who could have turned a blind eye to the suffering of those around him. Instead, he spent everything and took great risks to save his employees because he recognized that this was the right thing to do. Schindler’s example to me is to question the source of my power – whether that is my race, my social status, or even my citizenship. And if the source of my power causes others to be treated inhumanely, then it is important find the courage to act in support of those who are the victims.
One of the first reactions I notice when I have been deeply hurt, is that my heart wants to close up and protect me from getting hurt again. It’s a constant struggle of courage to slowly peel off the armor, open my heart, and yes – risk getting hurt again. However, in my experience, the more sheltered my heart, the more fear I have in my life. To me, being truly courageous means risking pain so that my compassion can grow.
As a child many years ago, I was harmed by a person who was close to me. It took a great deal of hard work and a long journey for me to fully process the pain of their actions and remove layer after layer of protection that I had placed over my heart. This protection kept me from seeing and fully accepting my own humanness. As I worked through the pain, I began to accept my own humanness and in turn, see the humanness of the person who harmed me. When I met this person again recently, I realized that having the courage to forgive myself for being human had allowed me to find the courage to forgive this person as well. The anger and fear I held had transformed into acceptance and compassion.
Another challenge to face with courage is the feeling of vulnerability. And little else makes a person feel more vulnerable than putting words to what they need from another. Because there is always the chance that the person or people to whom we voice these needs will refuse to hear us, insult our needs by making them sound as a weakness… or worse, try to use our needs against us. Naming what I need in a relationship is a risk. And yet, without naming it, I do not give them an opportunity to address it – which means we may never reach an understanding. As such, courage is required to communicate my needs and even greater courage is required to acknowledge that the need may not be met. It is then up to me to inquire within myself how I can let go of the relationship and move forward.
I prefer to think of courage as less about being fearless and more about facing my fear and doing what’s right – even if it causes me to feel afraid or experience deep loss… helping those who are being victimized – even if I must challenge a system that benefits me… and opening my heart – even when it means exposing my needs and letting go of the armor that protects me.