There is a scene in the movie The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey, where Gandalf finds a small sword in a cave. He leaves the cave and gives it to Bilbo Baggins. If you’ve seen the movie, you probably know what happened next. If you haven’t, it’s okay. You don’t need to have seen it to get what Gandalf tells Bilbo a few seconds later. You don’t even have to know what the movie is about to understand the context of what Gandalf says.
To preface the statement, Bilbo tells Gandalf he had never used a sword in his life, and Gandalf tells him he hopes he never has to and (here’s the statement):
“True courage is about knowing, not when to take a life, but when to spare one.”
I’m not going to tell you what happens, but if you’ve never seen the movie, that particular line comes into play later.
That leads me to my topic today. I want to talk about courage and compassion for a minute.
True courage. It takes courage to be a soldier in any military, especially during times of war, which seem to be never ending. It takes courage to be a firefighter, especially when you have to run into a burning building to save someone. It takes courage to face something you are afraid of. Afraid of heights? Get on a rollercoaster or look over the edge of a high rise building or a mountain. It takes courage to step outside your comfort zone and do something you’ve never done. It takes courage to ask that pretty little girl out to the prom knowing she might say no.
It takes courage to be who you are.
The next few lines of what I am about to write may or may not offend some folks, but I’m going to say them anyway. If you will, just stick with me through the next few lines, and do it with an open mind.
In today’s world it takes courage to be different. Think I’m wrong? How many people have come out as gay or lesbian and immediately been scorned by their family or friends or co-workers or local religious group?
How many people have had a differing opinion than those around them and immediately been threatened with hateful words or deeds? You want an example? Okay, here you go:
Bruce Jenner, a.k.a. Caitlyn Jenner. I’m going to be honest with you here. I have no clue what’s going through his/her mind. I don’t understand what made him choose to go from being a man to being a woman. I don’t know. And here is where I will get completely honest with you: I don’t care. What he/she has done is really none of my business. It doesn’t have a direct effect on my life or my children’s lives. What he chose to do is between himself, his psyche and his God. It has nothing to do with me. Do you know what that means? My opinion on the matter, well, it doesn’t matter. And it shouldn’t. As I said up a few sentences, I don’t care what he does. It is his life and the only person/people this really effects is him and his family. End of story.
You wanted an example. I gave you one.
Here’s what I do know: people are quick to criticize others. They are quick to point out everything they have done (or are doing) wrong. They are quick to try and change those they feel are doing all these wrong things. They are quick to judge. Do you know how many times I’ve heard otherwise good people make comments like ‘that person’s going to hell’ or ‘this country’s going to hell in a handbasket’? Maybe it is, but does it do any good for someone to criticize others for things they have done that do not affect the person doing the criticizing? I don’t think so.
People are critical because they don’t understand a person’s motives or a situation. They don’t know what’s going through someone’s head when they decide to do something.
Okay, I guess it’s time to anger some folks. Criticizing something or someone because you don’t understand it or them is weak and narrow-minded.
If you haven’t clicked off the page, yet, I appreciate it.
The human mind is a very defensive thing. When it doesn’t understand something, it makes excuses for not trying to understand it. It allows the fear mechanism to kick in. I’ve stated it here before, but F.E.A.R. stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. I learned that a few years ago at work. (It’s a long story I won’t go into now. If you want to know about it, drop me a line and I’ll explain to you where I got it from.) When our defenses kick in we are quick to judge, to react, and to criticize. Sometimes that leads us to talking bad about people. Other times the defenses are so strong that we would rather break someone down, cuss at them, lie about them, beat them or bend the truth to fit out needs. We’ve seen it happen a lot over the last few years.
Fear makes people do stupid things. We’ve seen all the horror movies and the display of stupidity that takes place in most of them. Funny thing about real life, sometimes the movies aren’t too far off. Fear is a critical part of our psyche. If we fear something we will get away from it and avoid it as much as we possibly can. I am absolutely terrified of snakes, so I stay away from them. If I see one in the woods, I back away slowly while keeping it in sight.
A buddy of mine used to have a couple of snakes and he went to take one of them out of its cage and asked me if I wanted to hold it.
‘If you want that thing to stay alive, you might want to put it back in its cage.’
I was not kidding. It would have been very bad for me, the snake and my friend if he wouldn’t have put it back in its cage.
On the other hand, if we don’t run from the thing that scares us, we attack it, which I mentioned several ways how above. Criticism and hatred are two of the biggest ways to attack someone you don’t like or understand.
What is the opposite of Fear? I believe it is Courage.
Courage. It’s what the cowardly lion wanted in The Wizard of Oz. It’s what we all want.
It takes courage to be different. Even more so, it takes courage to defend someone different than you, even if everyone else disagrees with you. It takes courage to show compassion to someone who wouldn’t show you the same compassion. It takes courage to do the right thing. In this day and age, in the world we live in, very few people want to do the right thing. They want to do their thing. If it can benefit them, even if it’s not necessarily right or fair, then there’s a chance people will do it. Like I said, it takes courage to do the right thing. None of us are always courageous in our decision making. None. Of. Us.
Let’s go back to that quote from The Hobbit and let’s change it up a little.
“Courage is knowing, not when to criticize others, but when to show compassion to them.”
Compassion is concern for others. It’s helping someone shorter than you reach something on the top shelf. It’s helping someone struggling to carry something heavy by taking part of the load. It’s seeing a need and trying to address it, but without stipulations. None of the ‘I’ll do this, but you have to do this’ nonsense. No, that’s not compassion. Compassion comes with no strings attached. It’s a genuine feeling of concern for someone to the point that you want to help them without expecting anything else in return. It’s a woman giving a young couple 20 bucks so they can buy a kiddie pool for their young son because they couldn’t afford to do it themselves.
Compassion. There’s not enough of it in this world. There needs to be more. Much, much more. Courage. The cowardly lion wanted it, but it wasn’t given to him. He developed it when he did the right thing and tried to save Dorothy and his friends from the wicked witch. It takes courage these days to show compassion and understanding, even in the face of things we may not understand. But it takes neither courage, nor compassion to criticize and break people down because they think differently or choose differently or believe differently or look differently than we do or if they make decisions for their lives that hurts no one that we don’t agree with.
Everyone is different. Everyone has their own idea of how things should be. Why should it matter to someone if someone else doesn’t have those same beliefs? It shouldn’t, but for some reason, it does. I’ll never understand it.
Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another…