I've mentioned Leonard Pitts before. He's a columnist and I often find that I strongly agree with what he's saying as well as loving how he says it. Today, he was masterful. He started with acknowledging last week's Senate apology for "decades of inaction while an estimated 4,700 Americans, most of them black, were lynched."
He makes several interesting and valid points, but it was his conclusion that gripped me:
Don't get me wrong. I'm not upset an apology was issued.
But, the moral cowardice of 20 holdout senators aside, how much political courage is required in 2005 to say that it is wrong to stand by as mobs murder people? What does it tell you that we must get almost 50 years beyond lynching before we can muster the fortitude to call the sin a sin?
What happened last week was a historic gesture, an appropriate gesture, but in the end, only a gesture. For it to be more requires not remorse about yesterday's injustices, but resolve about today's.
Courage isn't courage unless there's something at stake.
As I was pondering his words, I realized that this definition results in courage's different look for each of us. I thought of my friend who, in my opinion, shows courage as she interacts with a woman at the coffeehouse where we have church. The woman is probably mentally unstable. But my friend says that she wonders what this wandering one with sporadic grasps on reality has to teach her. An opportunity to learn was not what I thought of when I first saw the woman. I was fretful, anxious about how she might interrupt the worship experience we have in the coffeehouse. My sense of order would have been at stake if I had shown the courage to talk to her. I didn't. My friend did and now I wonder, was it courageous for her? If she sees it as a benefit and doesn't believe she has anything to lose then maybe not. But, if so, my friend shows courage in other ways (and the whole package of this friend is what is truly amazing!).
For me, speaking out against something requires little to no courage. Crafting ideas? Nope, no courage required. But facing the reality that by making a stand . . . a visible stand . . . and coming out loud and clear and radical on an issue? For that, I have to muster up a lot of courage. Asians call one of my greatest fears "losing face." If ever I counter you, obviously challenging what you think and especially if I'm forfeiting what may be your good opinion of me, KNOW that every ounce of me has been conjured up to be that courageous.