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"It is Not Because Things are Difficult that We Do Not Dare; It Is Because We Do Not Dare that They are Difficult.”

Cortisol – the chronic stress chemical – shortens your lifespan and physically impairs your brain and ability to learn.

Fear makes you a lousy investor.

Fear makes people stupid and sheep-like.

And when people try to “play it safe” and “keep their head down” in order to avoid trouble, they often end up getting in more trouble than if they had just stood up and taken care of business.

As Seneca pointed out, a lack of courage also increases our difficulties in general:

It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.

Moreover, it is tempting – when confronted with one piece of bad news after another – to sink into a numb cocoon of cynicism and hopelessness. But we don’t have the luxury of being hopeless. Because we’re going to get our asses kicked unless we take action.

Hope In a Time of Hopelessness

Several long-time activists have told me recently they are overwhelmed, worried, and think that we may be losing the struggle ….

One very smart friend asked me if there is any basis for hope.

But hope is an act of will, not a passive mood. Admittedly, things are easier when circumstances bring hope to us, and we can just receive the hopeful and inspiring news.

But if we care about winning, we have to be able to decide to have hope even when outer circumstances aren’t so positive.

I have children who are counting on me to leave them with a reasonably safe and sane planet. As I’ve said elsewhere, “I care too much about my kids and my freedom to be afraid. I care enough about them that it gets my heart beating, connects me to something bigger than myself, and that gives me courage, even when the chips are down.”

If I allowed myself to lose hope about exposing falsehoods, about protecting our freedom and building a hopeful future, I would be dropping the ball for my kids. I would be condemning them to a potentially very grey world where bigger and worse things may happen, where their liberties and joys are wholly stripped away, where every ounce of vitality is beholden to joyless and useless tasks.

Many of us may be motivated by other things besides kids …. Only you can know what that is. But we each must dig down deep, and connect with our most powerful motivations to win the struggle for freedom and truth.

I don’t know about you . . . but I don’t have the luxury of giving up hope. When I get depressed, overwhelmed or exhausted by the stunning acts of savagery, treason, and disinformation carried out by the imperialists, or the willful ignorance of many Americans, I will myself into finding some reason to have hope.

Because the struggle for liberty is too important for me to give up.

If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won. It exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.
– Ayn Rand

Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.
– Lin Yutang

Hope is passion for what is possible.
– Soren Kierkegaard

Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.
– Maori Proverb

I steer my bark with hope in the head, leaving fear astern. My hopes indeed sometimes fail, but not oftener than the forebodings of the gloomy.
– Thomas Jefferson

He who does not hope to win has already lost.
– Jose Joaquin Olmedo

When you do nothing, you feel overwhelmed and powerless. But when you get involved, you feel the sense of hope and accomplishment that comes from knowing you are working to make things better.
– Pauline R. Kezer

Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good.
– Unknown

We should not let our fears hold us back from pursuing our hopes.
– John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Your hopes, dreams and aspirations are legitimate. They are trying to take you airborne, above the clouds, above the storms, if you only let them.
– William James

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.
– Helen Keller

The capacity for hope is the most significant fact of life. It provides human beings with a sense of destination and the energy to get started.
– Norman Cousins

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall — think of it, ALWAYS.
– Mahatma Gandhi

We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something better tomorrow.
– Orison Marden

Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow by conflict.
– William Ellery Channing

Hope is medicine for a soul that’s sick and tired.
– Eric Swensson

Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.
– Augustine of Hippo

What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope to the meaning of life.
– Emil Brunner

The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.
– Barbara Kingsolver

Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.
– Vaclav Havel

Hope is the companion of power, and mother of success; for who so hopes strongly has within him the gift of miracles.
– Samuel Smiles

Of all ills that one endures, hope is a cheap and universal cure.
– Abraham Cowley

Every area of trouble gives out a ray of hope; and the one unchangeable certainty is that nothing is certain or unchangeable.
– John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Let perseverance be your engine and hope your fuel.
– H. Jackson Brown Jr

Develop sincere desire for the goal. Out of fire of desire comes success.
– Unknown

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.
Mahatma Gandhi

Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Don’t lose hope. When it gets darkest the stars come out.
– Unknown

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.
– Dale Carnegie

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
– Winston Churchill

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.
– F. Scott Fitzgerald

It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
– Robert F . Kennedy

Courage

It all comes down to courage . . .

If you have courage, then you’re willing to face that really stinky mess in the garage and clean it up.

You have faith you can clean it up, because you’ve cleaned up other really stinky messes, or seen other people do it. In other words, you have faith because you have experience of succeeding in the past.

Fat and Happy

We Americans have led a very pampered life for the past couple of decades. Sure, there has been inequality and exploitation, and some have had it a lot worse than others. But, other than stopping extreme forms of racism (Ku Klux Klan, etc.), we haven’t had to defend our borders or our liberties.

Basically, we complain if our tv goes on the fritz, or our team loses the game, or we can’t afford that new, nicer whatzit, or if our boss is mean. We think those are big, Earth-shattering, history-changing events. But they are quite small in the grand scheme of things

And even those of us who think of ourselves as brave heroes usually only act like that when we know it is within the bounds of safety, within the limits of what we can handle. “Tough guys” tend to turn into meek mice whenever they are really threatened.

So we’re basically lazy and timid, but we don’t know or admit it. We like to pretend we are like the Founding Fathers or John Wayne (at least the cowboys had to rough it a little).

But we have no experience of successfully standing up to tyrants, so we have no faith that it can be done, and while the evidence is right before our noses that our current leaders are tyrants, we’re so terrified that we have our knickers in a bunch.

What Would They Do?

Even if you haven’t experienced success in standing up to tyrants, remember that the Founding Fathers did just that. They were just men, not gods. Sure, they were too persistent and stubborn to give up, but that’s because they CARED about something: freedom and the possibility of a better life.

They may have lived hundreds of years before our time, but that doesn’t matter — we can still learn from their experience as if it were happening now. Time is an illusion, since human nature is the same now as it was then. Just as many people of faith ask “what would Jesus do?”, we can also ask “what would the founding fathers do?” If they could do it, we can do it.

Take Heart

There is a real misunderstanding of what it means to be courageous. In America, courage is often thought of as a testosterone-driven toughness. There’s nothing the matter with testosterone. Masculinity is a great thing. But many American men secretly fear that they don’t have sufficient testosterone to really be brave when the chips are down. As I said above, even those of us who think of ourselves as brave men usually only act like that when we know it is within the bounds of safety, within the limits of what we can handle.

We might jump in a bar room brawl to protect our buddy, but that’s because we know we’re only going to get knocked around a little bit — nothing but bruises that will go away in a little while. The stakes just aren’t that high.

But most American men secretly doubt whether they are macho enough to pull it off under fire. They may watch alot of action movies, and talk tough, and stand up when its not really dangerous (or when they clearly outgun the other guy), but they are secretly terrified that they don’t have quite enough backbone to pull it off against the big boys, such as tyrants.

I would argue that this view fundamentally misunderstands the nature of courage, and ensures that we will never have true courage when it counts.

By way of analogy, the word “discipline” comes from “disciple”. If you are a true “disciple” of an idea of a plan or a strategy or a religion, then you will stick to it and “have discipline” to reach your goal. It is not just a matter of willpower; it is also devotion to something bigger than ourselves.

Similarly, the word “courage” comes from the French “with heart”. Why does it have this root meaning? Because it takes heart to act bravely. That’s how my childhood Karate teacher used the word: when I was practicing with courage, power and focus, he would say “you have alot of heart today” (indeed, many old-school warriors use the phrase “fighting with heart” in that way).

If courage is acting “with heart”, we’ve lost heart. And without heart, we cannot face the truth.

So how do we regain our heart? Well, let’s start with what gets our hearts beating.

Remember that the mother bear is one of the fiercest animals of all. Just get between a mother bear and her cub and you’ll see what I mean. It is her love of her cub which gives her the heart to face any enemy when her cub is threatened. It is not her level of testosterone, but rather her love for her cub which makes her so fierce.

Just as discipline is more than just willpower, courage stems from something bigger than just cajones. In fact, the strongest courage comes from the love of something we care about, since our heart will sustain us even when the chips are really down and we are really up against a tyrant. As the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said: “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. ”

In addition, we’re no longer living in the old west. Individualism is very important in numerous ways, but we can only win against the tyrants as a team, as a community, as a nation. And only by opening our hearts to what matters will we be able to work together, to fight for all of our kids, and all of our freedom. Only then will we be able to put the crooks and the looters and the tyrants back in the box.

Do we care about our kids, our significant others, our parents, our friends? Do we care about the freedom to choose what we want, instead of having our “great leader” choose for us?

If not, what DO we care about? Because if that is where your heart is, that is what will give you courage.

I care too much about my kids and their future to be afraid. I care enough about them that it gets my heart beating, connects me to something bigger than myself, and that gives me courage, even when the chips are down.

Courage is an innate human quality. It is within each of us, waiting to reveal itself when we open our hearts. When we act with heart, by definition, we are courageous.

Those who would trade safety for freedom deserve neither.
– Thomas Jefferson

Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
– Hellen Keller

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
– Goethe

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.
– Ambrose Redmoon

Courage is an everyday thing. When we look reality squarely in the eye and refuse to back away from our awareness, we are living courage.
– Anonymous

To have courage for whatever comes in life – everything lies in that.
– Mother Teresa

It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
– Robert F . Kennedy

Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.
– Aristotle

Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.
– John Wayne

Courage is doing what your afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared.
– Eddie Rickenbacker

Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.
– George Patton

One man with courage makes a majority.
– Andrew Jackson

Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.
– H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

Within each of us is a hidden store of energy. Energy we can release to compete in the marathon of life Within each of us is a hidden store of courage. Courage to give us the strength to face any challenge Within each of us is a hidden store of determination. Determination to keep us in the race when all seems lost.
– Roger Dawson

We must never despair; our situation has been compromising before; and it changed for the better; so I trust it will again. If difficulties arise; we must put forth new exertion and proportion our efforts to the exigencies of the times.
– George Washington

We must remember that one determined person can make a significant difference, and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history.
-Sonia Johnson

Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
– Margaret Mead

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