This year marks my 15th anniversary writing my column Living the Sweet Life. This year also marks my 50th. As a way of reflection and remembrance this year’s Sweet Life will be a continuous study of Aristotle’s 12 virtues and how they are applied to my life. Enjoy!
Lessons learned in life come from many different experiences. Some leave lasting impressions that then influence the ways we perceive and react to the world. One hopes in a lifetime to master many virtues and the way we do this is through experiences. Aristotle wrote of 12 virtues the first of which is courage.
There are many different types of courage depending on the sources you research but generally it is said that we have six types of courage. Physical, as in helping someone in harms way or sacrificing oneself in times of war for one’s country. Social, as demonstrated through leadership and through taking a stand for what is right despite the consequences. Intellectual courage involves knowing what is right from wrong and our willingness to speak out on topics that may make enemies of once friends. Moral courage is similar because often times by not following the crowd we find ourselves alone and in a wake of disapproval. It is a clear choice of actions speaking of ones character and not just words. Emotional Courage occurs when we fall in love and leave ourselves vulnerable to the possibility of being rejected. The last type and perhaps the most challenging in thought, word and deed is that of spiritual courage. This is when we question our faith, our purpose and what we are doing while here on earth.
As many of you, after having now lived a whopping 50 years, my life has come to a point where quiet reflection is necessary and welcomed so that where I may have gone can be examined and where I am to go to next might be revealed and even lived in a more thoughtful way. The blindness and some might say stupid decisions in youth are now a thing of the past and a more purposefully directed course of actions in my daily life desired as I now make my way through my back 50. Upon the reflection of this first virtue, I am decidedly not much good at physical courage. I don’t like war and I know I am not capable of rescuing someone from a burins house but I do know that if I saw a burning house with a person or an animal in it I would go tearing in to try to save whatever poor soul needed to be rescued. I just haven’t thankfully ever had the chance to have to test this in the field so to speak. Social courage has not been hard for me as I have always desired to be the leader and not the follower. I can remember setting the standard for what behaviors I would or would not tolerate in my friends and I can continue to say proudly that I have never done nor will I ever partake in illegal drugs and therefore I do not make friends with those that do. Yes I am a fuddy duddy and a proud one at that. My intellectual courage as with most I can be certain has wavered through the years and despite my best efforts to stand by what I stand for I am guessing like most of you when we already know what our great Aunt Nancy feels about politics sometimes it’s easier to fail in courage rather than to create an unnecessary fight over whatever the subject may be…from the right way to make a sausage ball to who should become our next president. Seeing the forest for the trees and avoiding the collision when nothing good would come from stirring the pot is somehow for me a showing of intellect even though not very courageous lol. I am proud of this accomplishment now in my olden age as I used to be so eager to fight a good fight and winning was ideal. I now know winning is in keeping one’s mouth shut because truthfully deep down what I know doesn’t have to be proven to anyone and at this point so many are not listening anyway. Moral courage I was born with unfortunately lol and more than once it has gotten me into deep waters, like when I lectured a fellow student and my Christian boarding school who was Buddhist about not taking the blood and body of Christ at my boarding school…or when I gave way to lecturing about how to properly parent a grieving child…or when I set out to point out disparities in the treatment of myself and that of my siblings to my parents. Emotional courage again, I am a pro at. I despite knowing all the possibilities of disaster in falling in love I completely gave myself to Brian 32 years ago. When my children came I completely gave myself to them and through the years there has been few disappointments and not much heart break because love and the courage to do so completely wins every single time…there are no exceptions to this truth. Spiritual Courage is the biggest and baddest of all six types. Having spiritual courage is where over the first 50 years I have worked a solid day in and day out to achieve. Leading a life that sets examples of being the best you you can be for both yourself but for your family and all those that touch your life is indeed a hefty task. Staying faithful to hope in the face of fear when mommy was killed in what seems like a lifetime ago, staying close to God in the face of my nephew’s unthinkable suicide.
Life is full of challenges. Somedays I have been the most feisty and fierce while others I have been resigned and not very courageous at all. Steve Jobs said “And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” I am just so grateful to have lived long enough to contemplate where I have gone and know where I am going. Do you?
Take Care of You!