In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, main character Atticus Finch says, “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
What real courage is. The message that Atticus Finch provides us is simple yet poignant and so often overlooked in our society.
A quick search on Merriam-Webster reveals their definition of courage to be, “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.
That definition fully supports the message Atticus Finch provides us.
However, what it doesn’t support is society’s view that courage is about being tough, macho, bullying, combative and even violent. These stereotypes are continuously portrayed in movies and television shows, tolerated in the workplace, prevalent in politics and sadly instilled in our children.
What real courage is to me is the ability to go against the grain – to stand up for what may not be popular, for what may even get you ostracized, for the betterment of others and yourself.
Like children and adults who make the difficult decision to speak out against the bullies on the playground, who grow up and become bullies in the workplace.
Let me be clear, unburdening yourself from the suffering of bullying is what real courage is. To risk alienation and retaliation to not only benefit your own life, but the lives of those who will encounter this person now and well into the future, shows incredible bravery which often goes unnoticed.
Those who are bullied and choose to come forward are often blamed and demoralized rather than acknowledged and applauded for their courage. What does it say about society that we dismiss these courageous individuals while supporting and promoting the bullies of the world?
I wish I had the answer, but I don’t. All I can say with certainty is that anyone who comes forward with a claim of bullying is a shining example of what real courage is. They deserve our trust, our compassion, our praise and our support, not our judgement.
Brene Brown once said, “You can choose courage, or you can choose comfort, but you cannot choose both. Choose then what real courage is.