Robert Kennedy On Why Courage Can Change The World
By Kris Deichler, Associate Partner & Mentorship Coach, Lighthouse International
“Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change.”
~ Robert Kennedy
Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to stand up or speak up for what you believe is right, but were too afraid? Perhaps you or someone else was being treated unfairly or with cruelty, perhaps you heard someone making a derogatory comment or joke you didn't approve of, or perhaps you were a witness to inconsiderate, nasty or selfish behaviour. I know I have been in that situation many times, and chose not to do or say anything more times than I would like to admit. I also know the liberating and self-empowering feeling of overcoming my fears enough to stand up for something I feel passionate about.
In the quote above, Mr. Kennedy describes taking that step as ‘moral courage' because it's about standing up for what we believe is right, despite our own fears or insecurities. Making the choice to go against the grain and follow our conscience, is something that definitely takes a great deal of courage. Why? Because we know we will likely face (even harsh) criticism, or judgement from others, possibly rejection, ridicule or hostility too. This is because, as the quote says, we live in ‘a world which yields most painfully to change’.
However, when we look back at those who have been willing to face the potentially painful consequences of such actions; legends like William Wilberforce, Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, or Nelson Mandela; we see people who inspired others to follow them,and through their courage, they helped the world to change. Such courage is, as the quote mentions, a rare thing; however, it is also something that's needed as much today as it was in Mr. Kennedy's time. Perhaps more. I also believe that, deep down, we too want the strength to do as these legends have done; to be braver, to take more of a stand and fight for who and what we believe in, rather than shrink away or simply conform.
So if we do want to live like those legends and more, how can we develop more courage in ourselves?
Stretch Your Comfort Zone One Step At a Time
Don't expect to suddenly lead a social revolution in one go! Choosing to take tiny steps outside the boundary of your comfort zones, will start to stretch them. It will feel uncomfortable at first, but that's a very healthy thing because it's through that process that we start to grow as a person. Every time we choose to interrupt our default patterns, do something different, no matter how small, we prove to ourselves the alternative is possible and we gain a private victory for ourselves - which by the way - feels awesome! It feels empowering to listen to our conscience, to know where we stand and not to give in to fear. The more we take those little steps, the more we realise the kind of strength we have within us, and thus we are more willing to do so again, and again, and again...
Have a Powerful Reason Why...
Having the right motivation is key to making any change. There is a quote by renowned author and former concentration-camp prisoner Viktor Frankl that says,
“...when we have a strong enough reason why, we will bear any how.”
In other words, when something matters enough to us, we will be willing to face any challenge that comes our way and not give up. We will push ourselves despite our laziness or the fears in our head...
Why do people who hate exercise suddenly decide to train hard and run a marathon? Maybe because a loved one is suffering from cancer. Why do some parents struggle and sweat to work two jobs? Maybe it's to put enough food on the table for their children. Why does someone come out as gay in a profession that is bigoted or resistant to such lifestyles? Maybe it's because they want to change perspectives and make it easier for others like them. Why does one child stand between their best friend and the school bully threatening to hurt them? Maybe because they'd rather take a punch than see their friend get hurt.
When something matters to us, the consequences of us not stepping up becomes a far worse outcome.
So think about what matters to you and what role you want to play in protecting the people and things you care about, such as; fairness, family, kindness, cooperation, equal rights, understanding, positivity, loyalty etc. When the price of seeing these things diminish becomes too much, we will be less willing to tolerate the people and situations that threaten our families and friends, values, vulnerable people, animals and planet Earth.
This is a video of Robert Kennedy's brother Ted Kennedy, who read out his brother's powerful speech at Robert's funeral after he was tragically assassinated in 1968. It contains the quote above
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