This past Sunday morning, I had the privilege of presenting the Opening Prayer at the 9:25 and 11:25 services. If you were in attendance, you may recall that the word courage was at the heart of the preface to my prayer, and that my prayer called for us to be willing to reimagine courage in the coming year. As you likely may know by now, in 2018, the theme for Unity worldwide, and for UCOH specifically is: The Courage To Imagine. As this theme pertains to UCOH in the first quarter of 2018, Revs. Brian and Kristen will be emphasizing the courage to come from within.
Since the beginning of the year, in addition to last Sunday’s Opening Prayer, I have already used this theme to facilitate the year’s first Soul Writers meeting, written two articles on the theme, one for the February issue of All Natural magazine for UCOH, and one for last week’s blog article, here on the UCOH website. We are now entering the third week of 2018, and “The Courage To Imagine” theme is still dominating my consciousness, and finding its way into my creative expressions. This week’s blog article goes deeper into the thoughts I have experienced around courage, since preparing for last Sunday’s Opening Prayer.
First, Let’s Define Courage
I love words. From time to time, I also love looking up the meaning of words I have used all of my life. I do this to see if the way I am using them in my writings or conversations, actually matches the definition, or more importantly, the essential meaning of the word. Last weekend as I was preparing for Sunday’s Opening Prayer, I decided to look up the word courage. I have used the word virtually all of my life.
A quick Google of the search terms “courage definition” will bring up the following at the top of the search results. From Merriam-Webster, “courage” is the “mental or moral strength to venture forth, to persevere and withstand danger, fear and difficulty to achieve a goal.” Elsewhere, you will note that courage is the “ability to do something that frightens you, to express strength in the face of pain or grief.” If you ask most people, they will likely agree these definitions are correct, at least in terms of how we use them. But, a deeper investigation of the original meaning of courage reveals a nuance that belies the modern usage.
Where Did The Word Courage Originate?
Another thing I like about Google searching the meanings of words is the links to the “etymology” or origins of the word. Google also provides a handy little graph that shows the “popularity” or “usage” of the word over the past 200 years or so. Is the word in ascendancy, or decline, since 1800? As far as the usage of the word courage, it has largely been in decline for over 200 years, with a slight, but noticeable uptick since about 2010.
During that span of time, the word courage has seemingly departed from its original meaning to evolve into the connotations of modern usage. The original meaning of the word courage stems from the Latin root, cor, which means heart. The word spread in usage through the Old French corage, into the Middle English form courage, which is the one we use today. However, its original meaning of “heart” has gotten lost in our modern day usage. A quick review of the dictionary definitions above reveals that modern usage defines courage in ways that completely avoid referencing the heart at all.
Courage Is The Expression Of The Heart
It is interesting to me that in defining courage, the modern day dictionaries completely avoid referencing the heart, which is the original meaning of the word. If we relied solely on modern definitions, what we call courage would be reduced to a mere act of self will. But in truth, courage is much more than just an act of will, exerted to overcome some perceived fear, challenge or adversity. Courage is an expression of the heart.
In the book, The Twelve Powers, Unity co-founder Charles Fillmore denotes love as one of the twelve creative faculties of humankind, describing love as the harmonizing power among the twelve powers. The creative power of love, centered in the heart, brings the energies of all the other twelve powers into alignment and harmony. It is the power of love that ultimately overcomes fear. It is the power of love that neutralizes resistance. Since love is an expression of the heart, courage is also an expression of love. It is no mere act of self will.
We are just beginning our year long adventure together under the banner of “The Courage To Imagine,” and we will explore this theme many times throughout the year. But for today, I want to leave you with some things to think about here at the outset.
The Unity.org website states, the intention of “The Courage To Imagine” adventure is to encourage each one of us to think about the power of imagination in innovative ways this year. The main impetus is to inspire us to use our imagination to overcome limiting beliefs, and to realize our divine potential. I have no issue with this goal. However, I don’t believe it goes far enough, because it only focuses on the imagination part of the equation, and doesn’t address the courage part.
I believe we should first employ our power of imagination to reimagine courage as an expression of the heart, rather than an act of will. In this sense, having the courage to imagine means being willing to allow the energies of the heart, as the seat of love, to infuse, inspire and empower all of the activities of our imagination. Using our imaginations, we can, and will, create a new future together, one way or another. It will either come about through the misuse of imagination that succumbs to the blunt forces of fear and resistance, or through imagination that is infused with the harmonizing powers of courage and love.
It does not take courage to resist, because all resistance ultimately comes from fear. It takes way more courage to be be non-resistant in the face of seemingly insurmountable opposition. We only need to look to examples like Jesus, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King to confirm this truth. True courage comes from love, which sees only harmony and unity. Only love can ever neutralize fear. So, next time you are feeling afraid and needing a little courage, put your heart into it and allow the creative, harmonizing power of love to inspire your imagination in new, innovative ways.