I saw a quote posted on Twitter that prompted a chain of thought, that I felt compelled to write about. The quote was:

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, loving someone deeply gives you courage.

Lao Tzu

My initial thougths were of what a great quote it was, what wisdom and how the message within was so true. However, I then went on to consider how do we actually put any form of measure on courage or strength? Both are from my perspective very subjective, is there any objective or concrete measure of what is truly courageous or what a true measure of strength is? Then there is that word “perspective” that crept in. I jumped into considering examples, cases that would demonstrate my thoughts, those that would demonstrate the ideas I was wrestling with.

There are some acts that undeniably demonstrate and are widely held up to be acts of great courage, the soldier on the battlefield who fuelled by adrenelin supresses all measure of danger and runs through a hail of bullets to save a comrade. Or, as has been demonstrated many times, the terminally ill patient who despite their impending fate sets of on a great journey or challenge to raise money for charity.

However, I contend that there are many acts of courage or strength that go unnoticed, as to the observer they seem mundane, straight forward or common place. I use the following to demonstrate my argument:
Generally every ‘working’ day I, like many billions of other people, will walk out of my front door, travel to my workplace, spend a day working and interacting with people. This is something that is commonplace, part of everyday life for most. I enjoy the experience and derive great pleasure and energy from my interactions with the people that I meet. Now, I contrast that to an agoraphobic who has been house bound for many years, the very thought of leaving the safety of their house and venturing out of the door may well paralyse them. Is their first act of walking over the threshold, taking that first step into their ‘unknown’, their nemesis, taking their first step in overcoming that paralysis any less courageuous (in their world) than the act of a soldier when he saves his comrade?

I suggest that the primary difference here are the perceptual filters of the observer, leaving the house is an act of every day life for most, it is routine, not for the agoraphobe. However, many observers will never have felt the intensity and associated fear of battle and thus the act of the soldier is recognized and celebrated to be an act of extraordinary courage.

There is a Cherokee prayer that contains a passage that reads:

Oh Great Spirit, grant that I may never criticize my brother or my sister until I have walked the trail of life in their moccasins.

This is a sobering thought; how often do I, we judge the acts or behaviours of others using our own perceptual filters, our models and on the evidence of our own experiences? Too often? Do we really take the time to consider the size of the challenge that faces them? Maybe, we should take the time to get into their moccasins and see the world through their eyes; to gain an awareness of what the commonplace, the easy or mundane to us, might look like to others who have never experienced it before.

As a coach, I must be aware of the potential to judge and be able to suspend judgement. I must also be able to ask questions that raise the awareness of my clients to the different perspectives that others may have on a given situation.