Courage

Merriam Webster defines courage as a “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” Notice that at no point does it specifically mention any specific act. Simply that whatever you are working through gives you feelings of fear, a sense of danger and may also be difficult. This leads me to believe that people as a whole are courageous and no singular person has more or less than any other.

For example, recall how it felt as a teenager to try and go to a dance. Some of you may have felt fear as you asked someone to go with you. Some may have felt fear about dancing on the floor and still some may have felt fear about even going at all. No matter which scenario you fell into, those can all take courage to get through. Now, that can be seen as a minor issue, so what about something that carries more weight?

Imagine someone that has lost someone in life. A family member, a friend, someone that was close to them. It can take courage to get through the loss of someone, and each circumstance is different. But again, we see an instance where everyone has courage to get through it. But one thing I notice is that no one has more or less courage.

See, we toss a saying around that an event or act can “take a lot of courage”, but it’s very relative. It’s an opinion. But we can come to a consensus about how difficult or dangerous something could be. And we can’t argue if someone says that they fear an act or event. It is a feeling they have and the majority of us can’t dispute that.

That is why I can’t wrap my head around why people are upset over Caitlyn Jenner being awarded the Arthur Ashe for Courage Award over someone else. Most of what I see people suggesting is one of two people. Either a service member named Noah Galloway, who is a double amputee that won third place on Dancing With The Stars and has founded charities. Or a posthumous award to Lauren Hill, a basketball player that after learning she had terminal brain cancer, did plenty to raise awareness and money towards fighting cancer. The truth is all three are worthy of the award.

Mr. Galloway showed courage first by wanting to serve his country. He then displayed it after his unfortunate IED injury by getting rehabilitated and not giving up. He then further showed he had courage by becoming a motivational speaker and putting himself out for all to see. Ms. Hill displayed a different form by taking her diagnosis and using it to help others and to help in finding a cure. And Ms. Jenner has displayed it against herself.

What I mean by that is that sometimes the hardest battle, and the most fear comes from yourself. As a gay man myself I know full well what kind of fear comes over you when you first try to speak to friends and family about you being different from most everyone else. You worry about rejection, how they might react, what they would do. At best they love and accept you. But at worse they shun you. Kick you out of the home you’ve known and done everything to make you realize you aren’t welcome. I was lucky to have a very positive experience all my life with my sexuality. As far as I can tell, so has Ms. Jenner.

But before talking to those you know about it, you first have to talk to yourself. And no one is more judgmental about what you do than yourself. I sympathize with Ms. Jenner because her battle against herself speaks so well to me and I would hope to others that have had to fight with themselves to just be happy by being themselves. But even with that understanding, I still don’t believe her actions make her any more courageous than the other possible Arthur Ashe Award selections.

And even with those, if we look at past recipients of the award, they run a very large range of reasons. Most recently, Michael Sam received the award. His biggest note in history is he was the first openly gay player in the NFL. Before him, it was Robin Roberts who fought back from breast cancer and MDS treatments to return to her position as a co-anchor on Good Morning America. Other recipients include a wrongly convicted boxer, Nelson Mandela, and a basketball coach diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. 

Point is, a wide variety of courage has shown to be worthy of the award. For every person that has the award though, there are bound to be those who are also worthy that don’t receive that recognition. It doesn’t mean that the struggles others have endured is lesser than another’s. Unfortunately, someone has to not receive it to make it special. And maybe continuing to do what makes you unique despite not getting recognition of your courage is courage in itself.