I was talking the other day with a fellow combat veteran and we were discussing how growing up in the 80's, many young boys and men watched movies like Red Dawn or the Dirty Dozen and longed for our own conflict to test our resolve and obtain glory on the fields of battle. We used to get all the boys in the neighborhood together and play "Guns" for hours on end. One group of boys leading the assault on the other teams fortress and vice versus. Many times, we idolize the courage and heroism of the men made popular in movies like Braveheart and Band Of Brothers. However, once you actually experience something like war, you realize it is a real-life destructive hell and most of those men were simply doing their duty, living and fighting through their fears and hoping to come out alive. My friend and I agreed that after being dropped into "Hot LZ's" with bullets whizzing by your head or mortars and rockets falling on you as you sleep, the courage and heroism of war loses it's luster and appeal. Despite some recent authors "15 minutes of fame", most veterans simply don't want to talk about their experiences.
This talk made me think about how we, as a society, define courage. Let's be honest, most of us won't be asked to charge a machine gun nest or assault a hillside of Taliban. But there are other forms of courage. Courage could be defined as standing up for your faith and values in a hostile work environment or culture. Courage could be turning off the game to discipline your child for disrespecting their mother. I'll never forget a conversation I had with my son when he was 13, he was angry that he had to again endure another move for work related reasons and thought it was best to take it out on my wife. After a few days of Grace, I finally pulled him aside and told him that I was not going to let him talk to my wife that way. I asked him how he would feel if another man walked up to his girlfriend and said some of the comments had had been saying to his mother. At that moment, he realized that I was treating him like a man and that his mother was also my wife and I wasn't going to let anyone, even him, disrespect her. From that day on, my son's attitude and demeanor towards his mother changed instantly.
Courage could also be defined as standing up to our sinful nature, not giving in to pornography, alcoholism or any other escape from reality or responsibility. To me, courage is doing the hard things, despite the cost. After a 10-12 hour work day, going to a Bible Study, leading a small group, helping my kids with homework, or spending time with my wife. I'm not always perfect or consistent but I show up and make an effort.
The quote goes that "80% of success in life is simply showing up."
How many of us have checked out mentally or physically and decided not to show up? I know I do at times and retreat to my "cave."
While courage can be defined on the battlefield, in the office or in the home I believe it is also filled with love and grace.
"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love." - 1 Corinthians 16:13-14
This means being, as Stu Weber says, a "Tender Warrior." It's not a macho or arrogant courage but a humble and loving courage.
I think all of us need to spend more time being Tender Warriors in our home, our office and in our church and community. I know these type of men are the ones I seek out and search for as my mentors and band of brothers. We also need to teach, model and pass this type of courage on to our sons.
There is a movement of people and parents who believe we should take the violent nature out of young boys. Take away their toy guns, take away their Call of Duty games and give everyone a trophy instead of the team that earned the championship. To me this is the same old routine of trying to control the external environment rather than cultivating and training the internal character. I'm not a clinical psychologist and I understand that these people think that removing external "bad things" will create perfect men. But I truly believe that this thought process will create a generation of passive men if it hasn't already? Men who live in their wives shadows. Men who don't lead their families or walk away from their families entirely when life drops them into some form of "combat." Do we really need more passive, good men?
On 9/11 terrorists attacked the World Trade Centers because they stood as an example of the financial might and power of the United States. That morning, the towers were filled with some of the most successful people in Manhattan. People that had worked hard to get the best grades in schools, get into the top colleges and then get the best jobs and careers. By societies measuring stick, these were people at the top of the food chain and success ladder. But on the fateful morning in the midst of those terrible attacks, the successful and power men ran down and out of those buildings, while the men of true courage where running into those buildings. We don't need more passive men, we need more men of action and faith.
-Esse Quam Videri-