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What gives someone courage in a crisis?

Dave Newton explains how a small act of courage can help prepare you for an unknown courageous act somewhere in the future.

A headline of a story I saw recently taken from a 2007 news article read: “A kid who loves superheroes got a chance to be one.”

I was intrigued and read more to discover that a teacher of an elementary school in the USA was teaching using the projector and electronic whiteboard markers.

She was not aware, however, that she was allergic to the fumes from the eraser pen until her throat began to close over and she began to have a full-blown asthma attack. Knowing she had to get to the desk to grab her inhaler she quickly lost consciousness and fell to the floor in front of a class of nine-year-olds.

Brendon, along with his whole class, was alarmed but he didn’t just remain in his chair, he launched into action, running to the teacher’s desk and thrusting the inhaler into the groggy teacher’s hand. Afterwards, he explained he had seen it in a movie and thought he could do the same. “If I didn’t see that movie, I wouldn’t have known what to do,” said Brendon.

Once receiving the right medication the teacher made a full recovery but was grateful to Brendon, the nine-year-old boy who took the courage to act.

What is it that gives one person the courage to act in a moment of crisis? Are some people gifted with courage whilst others are simply observers?

Author Brené Brown says: “Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line… courage is not something we have or don’t have, it is something we practise.”

We know that courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to press on despite the fear. Courage is about doing what needs to be done whatever the opposition. It could mean having the courage to delay or press on; courage to shape a community around kingdom values rather than the values of the world; courage to challenge unhelpful behaviour or resist the pressure to conform.

We can convince ourselves that we need to find courage from somewhere, but perhaps courage is formed in us as we start to exercise it.

Jesus exhibits courage again and again during his ministry on earth; ridding the temple of money lenders, challenging religious leaders, talking to the outcast Samaritan woman and modelling a new leadership paradigm. He takes every opportunity to practise courage.

As American megachurch leader Andy Stanley puts it, “A single act of courage can be the tipping point for extraordinary change.”

Perhaps a situation you find yourself in today in your ministry, family or community is just waiting for you to take the courage to act.

So how can we develop our courage to be ready to step up when the opportunity arises? Firstly, get a clear understanding of your calling. When we are clear on what we have been called to do we can lead with real conviction, clarity and purpose.

Secondly, take confidence that we lead with others; whether we are the point leader or part of a team we need to surround ourselves with people with different backgrounds, skills and experiences from our own to help us make wise and robust decisions.

Then, take every opportunity that comes your way to exercise the courage muscles. Start small with courageous decisions about your time, routine, priorities and personal values. Smaller decisions and actions in our inner world help build confidence and resilience for the bigger external situations we face.

Finally, pray for courage to do what is right, to know what God requires of you in that moment or situation. Many biblical leaders required regular reminders to be courageous so why should we be any different.

Think today how you can exercise courage in your life and leadership. What small act of courage can help prepare you for an unknown courageous act somewhere in the future?

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