Thoughts on Courage- Sacrament talk 7/13/14

So, I gave a talk in Sacrament meeting this morning. For those of you who were unable to attend this morning and are interested this is a basic outline of the talk. Have a wonderful Sabbath day. :)

Good morning, Brothers and Sisters. I am not up here very often so I ask that you please bear with me as I struggle to find a way to articulate the ideas that I feel impressed to share today. When I was asked a few weeks ago to speak and was given a topic, I felt many things but my most overwhelming feeling was sadness. I do not feel that I have a good understanding of the topic nor do I believe it is an attribute that I have much of. After prayer and much reflection, I feel a little more able to discuss some aspects of it. As such, I wish to take a few moments of your time to speak about courage.

Courage is defined as the ability and willingness to do something that frightens you. All of us at some point in our lives have had to figuratively reach into the recesses of our soul to find the motivation and strength to confront or act in ways that we perceive and feel inspired are right and just... but are not easy choices and may come with consequences that are not always positive and joyful. It is this quality of heart and mind that may enable us to do the 'hard' things in the face of intimidation, fear and even physical pain and death. One thing that I feel like I have discovered in my reflections on courage is that, at least for me, it is easier to see and recognize courage in other people. The scriptures and history books are fairly riddled with individuals that we describe as courageous and we look up to for their actions... some of which have given a voice and freedoms as well as rights to all of us that we sometimes take for granted and do not always recognize often the pure blessings that we have been given and the pain, sweat and tears that have been sacrificed by others so that we may have fewer obstacles and challenges in our daily lives. To be frank, courage is sometimes being scared to death.... but doing the right thing anyway.

However, it feels important to take some time to recognize courage in its less celebrated and recognized forms... because to do so helps us to see and cherish it in ourselves and others. Brothers and Sisters, please take this opportunity to not only look inward but to look around you and you will not be able to ignore the clear but unspoken signs of courage around you. For some of our members, it takes significant and unmistakeable courage to accept a calling that they fear, to attend church or other social functions. For some of our friends and family, it may take all the hope and strength they possess to do what many of us consider a simple task- the ability to get out of bed in the morning.... the will to eat... the struggle to get through daily tasks that may sometimes appear insurmountable. For many people, courage is not just a byword or a famous name, but an unnamed part of their daily struggle. Lucius Seneca once wrote “Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.” Lauren Raffio is also quoted as saying “ Sometimes the biggest act of courage is a small one.” I know that I have felt so blessed and have gained strength for myself in my struggles as I have watched the courage of other members and tried to help them in their trials. I remember a talk in general conference a year or so back that discussed how trials are not always meant for the individual but for those around them... to help the community and the family of the afflicted to gain strength, understanding and more love. It comes to mind that we can only gain these things... the knowledge needed for more understanding, the ability to love more, and to find the power and motivation to gain strength if we are willing to use courage and to step into a situation and a pain that frightens us. Only by opening ourselves up can we gain these great blessings.

C.S. Lewis once wrote “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point which means at the point of highest reality.” When we look at courage through this lens, we can more easily recognize its presence in our hearts, our minds and in many of the choices we make. So it is important to stop and recognize why Heavenly Father has given his children the ability of courage to begin with. When human beings are presented with a different perspective, we usually initially react with either fear or love. These two powerful emotions are contradictory to each other and fear is part of our human experience...a trial that courage can help us to deal with.

2 Timothy 1:7 reads – For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

I believe that we have been given the ability of courage to help each and everyone of us to struggle forward against the strong forces of fear that are invasive in our lives. One way to remove fear from our lives is given to us in....

1 John 4:18 – There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.

To increase the amount of compassion and love we have for ourselves and others also takes courage as well as hard work. We can not increase our courage or love without actively working to do so. Prayer, introspection, study... all are needed for this difficult task. For those who believe that love and empathy towards others is a form of weakness I would ask you to please take a moment to examine that idea. Yes, allowing yourself to love leaves you more vulnerable to pain, uncertainty and despair. However, to have true love and compassion in this world of cruelty, judgment and fear... a person is also showing courage. And by doing so, we also open ourselves up for higher amounts of joy and happiness in our lives. Brothers and Sisters, weakness is not a sin no matter how often we tell ourselves it is. In an epistle to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 12:10) Paul writes: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Which brings us back to the idea that courage is a virtue to be found at every testing point and it becomes easier to see how necessary it is in our lives. So knowing and understanding how important the virtue of courage is.... understanding that it actually makes all the other virtues possible... how can we help ourselves develop this virtue and become a more courageous person? And how can we help others to grow and do the same? From the scriptures I read, it seems clear that love is a big part of how we develop and use courage. Another scripture:

Psalm 31:24 says– 'Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.'

When I read this scripture I felt like what it was saying that another way to develop courage is to develop our faith and on this foundation, we are able to release the grip on some of the fear that binds to our minds. Another way to develop faith as a foundation for courage is to strengthen our spirits... to do things that allow you to keep the Holy Ghost with you consistently and to feel his presence and the sense of peace he brings. It is hard for fear to bind to your mind when the holy spirit is cradling your soul to him feeding it peace and assurance. It is hard for fear to grab any hold on us for long periods of time when we are consistently acting against it.

Another thing that we can do is to truly look into our hearts and acknowledge where we are weak and fearful. I am not suggesting that anyone takes the time to sit and mentally berate themselves for their weaknesses or their infirmities. For anyone to understand where they are weak, they must also take the opportunity to recognize the areas that they are strong. So please, take the opportunity when being introspective to think positively and recognize you and what you are in its whole spectrum of being. And where you discover things that you want to change or recognize are weaknesses, start the process of trying to change it. Because when it comes to changing fear, there is only one surefire way that I know to truly get past it and extinguish it. When it comes to fear, the only way out is to go through it- to force yourself to face what you are afraid of. The more you do it, the more your mind and body lower the fear response until it becomes a barely recognizable murmur in the background... easily ignored. Practice courageous acts! Pray for the strength and courage to make those small steps forward.

Brothers and Sisters, I want to apologize. I have had several times in the past that I have struggled with compassion for some of you. I still struggle with anger for past hurts and injustices that I feel keenly in my heart. I can testify to you that what has helped the most in my healing process is to pray to know better those who I feel have not understood me and to do things that are really hard and frighten me. It I am going to be honest though.... I think most everything frightens me. :) I tend to worry that since I am imperfect I will cause harm and pain to others and that fear can sometime make it hard to do most anything with others. I am very grateful for your understanding and compassion towards me even with my faults and my many, many mistakes. If I have offended or hurt any of you, I beg for your forgiveness. I feel so sad at the idea that any of you might struggle with pain that I have caused. I hope that as we go to our meetings today and as we leave to continue the daily grind so to speak.... Well, I hope that each of you will take a moment to recognize the good and strong spirit that you have, to take the opportunity to look inward and recognize the things in your life and about yourself that you fear.... and to make your first steps towards using your courage to confront and change them. If you need help, ask! Our leaders are able to help us and to get inspiration on your behalf. Listen and pray as much as you need to. And when the fear gets to be too much, recognize it, rest and gain the strength and courage to fight it some more. I pray that we can all do better. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome talk Sonia. I wish I was there the hear it