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This article is part of a series. To read part two, click here.
A friend of mine recently stopped in the middle of our conversation, squeezed my right hand tightly, and said softly, “Roop…it’s been an awful 18 months for you. But you have shown so much courage and grit to come through this. I’m so proud of you.”
Not going to lie—I choked up and then full-on bawled.
Most of what my friend said was correct. It has been a sucky and heinous 18 months since my big loss in December 2020. That part is correct. But the part where my friend said I showed so much grit and courage…that part I wasn’t so sure of.
You see, pre-December 2020, if someone had said I was a courageous person, I’d have said, “Damn right I am.” I was raised to be a strong woman who could handle whatever sh*t life threw at her. And until I faced unimaginable tragedy, I believed I was that person.
But grief and loss change you. And sometimes, the behavior of those around you after you suffer from soul-crushing grief is worse than a dagger through your heart. It makes you question yourself and the world and every truth you ever believed in. It was the same for me. I’ve said this before, but I fundamentally changed as a person after my loss—from dreaming of the future to looking back on the past. In the immediate aftermath of the loss, I became even more cynical. But finally, I realized that I couldn’t go down this path and had to find a positive takeaway from the tragedy.
I also changed in that I now know I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. After the tragedy, I had no way of knowing if I’d become more courageous or more cowardly, or if I’d just stay the same. But my friend’s heartfelt comment made me wonder about the concept of courage itself.
I’d studied the six types of courage back when I was in school, and I realized I needed to dust off the old cobwebs, bring them back out, and look at where I fall today on the courage spectrum. This analysis has really helped me understand who I am from the inside out. It’s also allowed me to figure out what I need to work on and where my weak points are. I hope it does the same for you.
The six types of courage we need to master for a fulfilling life are:
1. Physical Courage
2. Social Courage
3. Moral Courage
4. Emotional Courage
5. Intellectual Courage
6. Spiritual Courage
In this article, I’ll be focusing on physical, social, and moral courage. I’ll be back next week to analyze emotional, intellectual, and spiritual courage.
This is the one I’m weakest at. Like I said, I’ve always been mentally strong, but it’s taken some time to become physically strong as well. I’m much stronger and more athletic and have more stamina today than a decade ago. I think more awareness and exposure to information, especially about health, nutrition, and how being physically fit can lead to less illness in life, combined with sick people in the family who suffered from heart disease, diabetes, and more, made me start to take my fitness seriously.
So, yes. Physically, I am strong.
But does that translate to physical courage? Not really.
Don’t even think about dropping me in a forest and me trying to protect myself from wildlife. I scream and shriek and jump up on my bed or my couch if a cockroach or lizard crosses my path. The fact that I’m probably 200-times larger than these creatures does nothing to stem my fear of them. I’m petrified of walking alone in the dark. As strong as I am, I fear the unknown. I shiver when I look down from a skyscraper. I can think of nothing scarier than jumping out of a plane or off a mountain.
I want to believe that if someone was in physical danger from racists, bigots, or horrible people in general that I would jump in and try to help. I want to believe that I’d physically stand up for weaker people when confronted by stronger ones. But I’m not sure. And that’s the complete and honest truth.
One place where I show some level of physical courage is that I love to travel alone. And as a single woman, who loves my own company, I believe it’s less about courage and more about being smart with my traveling choices. I stay safe. I don’t go anywhere in the dark. I stay in downtown hotels with crowded surroundings. Like I said, I’m smart about my choices.
When it comes to physical courage, I’m not as close as I’d like to be, and I know this is one area I need to work on.
Whether I was courageous or just opted for a certain lifestyle because I had no other choice, I don’t know. But the fact that I chose to be single, especially in a country that is a lot more traditional about women’s roles than others, is courageous.
I chose to be single not because I wanted to provoke anyone. I did so because I genuinely never found “The One” and I refuse to settle for anyone other than my perfect match. Also, I realized early on that I was someone who liked change and needed to be challenged and experience life’s myriad offerings. So even if had found “The One,” chances are that they’d no longer be the one after a few years. I’ve always known this about myself, and was honest enough not to mess up someone else’s life because of how fickle I was (and still am).
So, yes. I showed a lot of social courage by staying true to myself and not getting married or having kids in the face of immense opposition, including letting my parents down because of it.
I’m also perfectly okay speaking in public and taking on leadership roles. I love leading from the front. I like being in control. Over the years, I’ve also become okay with rejection. One of the things being a writer teaches you is that your writing will get turned down hundreds of times more than it gets accepted. Getting rejected—while it sucks, and I yell and cuss and scream every time—is still not something I’m afraid of.
This one is tricky. I believe I’m a moralistic person. I believe in doing the right thing and, more often than not, I take up and speak up for what I believe is right. I speak out against all the “isms”: racism, sexism, ageism, plus gender inequality, climate change, and so much more. I’m also extraordinarily loyal to my friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances. I never knowingly cheat anyone out of money—whether it’s individual people, credit card companies, or the local grocery store. I give back whatever is not mine. I can’t sleep at night if I don’t do right in a situation.
I can also be a self-righteous prig. I can be extremely judgmental about those who I think aren’t as morally correct in their behavior. I’m particularly unforgiving when it comes to infidelity in marriage or committed relationships. When someone cheats on their partner, something in me just goes off. This is why I still loathe Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie for what they did all those years back to Jennifer Aniston. I’m pretty sure all three of them are over it, but I’m still not. The way Aniston was publicly humiliated (and this after Jolie’s father cheated on her mother and abandoned them)—man, I’m still judgmental as f*ck about that.
Of course, Pitt and Jolie have since split up and are in the middle of a multi-year custody battle of their six kids, but a part of me feels like they deserved what they got for what they did to Aniston. Then I see how gracious Aniston is and how she has genuinely moved on and bears no ill-will toward either of them, and I have to wonder about my moralistic, priggish behavior.
So, yes. I have a lot of moral courage. But it’s been important for me to understand that I need to tone down my expectations and accept that we are all doing the best we can. And that sometimes I need to cut everyone some slack.
It’s a work in progress, y’all. I’m a work in progress.
That’s it for this week. But in the meantime, let me know what you think. How courageous are you? Comment below and let’s get a conversation going.
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