DSC_9733 copyHumor is a funny word – okay, I know; I couldn’t resist. What I meant to say is, “Humor is a strange word.” It has many interesting meanings, but for our purposes, we are talking about humor as it relates to wit or merriment. Humor is a quality of the mind that can allow us to adapt to a challenging situation by altering our perspective in the spirit of lightheartedness.

Perhaps you know plenty of strong people who do not appear to have a sense of humor at all, so you may be wondering how humor can really increase core strength. While humor is not a requirement of strength, it can certainly help us redirect our thoughts and lift our spirits in difficult circumstances. That small uplift can sometimes be just enough to move us to dig a little deeper and to find the strength we need to carry on.

Generally, we can recognize humor when we experience it, and, without too much weighty consideration, we can distinguish the difference between it and the subtle cruelty of its counterparts. Humor, for our discussion, means something very different from what is often considered funny:

  • Sarcasm is pointing out mistakes or foolishness in a caustic and negative manner.
  • Ridicule is calling attention to something with the object of causing contemptuous laughter.
  • Banter is a more playful version of ridicule.
  • Teasing is something else altogether. At some point or another, most of us have endured a mortifying experience at the hands of others who assured us it was funny (or fun) and that they were, “just teasing.” Hmm… Webster’s dictionary provides a bit of insight into the harmlessness of teasing: “To tease is literally to pull or scratch, and implies a prolonged annoyance in respect to little things, which is often more irritating, and harder to bear, than severe pain.”

Humor as we are using it means finding fun in situations and sharing merriment without causing humiliation, degradation, pain, or discomfort to another person (present or otherwise). Humor can include puns, jokes, and jests when they are shared to make light of something without causing a wound to the feelings of another person. It may take the form of self-effacing laughter at a shared absurdity or harmless folly, and sometimes just recognizing the incongruity of a situation will result in a moment of uplifting humor.

So how do we use humor?

We can use it to help someone else over a difficult or potentially embarrassing experience by sharing a moment of similar “suffering” – such as when your student realizes his shirt is on inside out and backward, and you think to say, “Well, you can get twice as many wearings out of a shirt that way – I used to do it all the time in college.”

We can use it by allowing others to laugh at our mistakes. Imagine that you’re out on an expedition wearing ancient wooden skis that are very hard to control, but somehow you make it to the bottom of an icy road only to look back and see your instructor racing toward you totally out of control. You scramble out of the way and watch aghast as he pitches, backpack and all, into the ditch. Seconds later he disentangles himself from skis, backpack, and ditch and dryly asks, “What? Haven’t you ever seen someone skiing before?”

We can use it when we find ourselves (or when others find us) in awkward situations – say, when you’re working in the garden and you’re already dirty and sweating and suddenly it starts pouring rain – if that’s not enough your neighbor drives up, pristine in his clean clothes and air-conditioned car, and courtesy demands that you, in all your sodden sweaty glory, slog over to greet him. He takes one look at you, smiles, and asks, “Are you in the middle of something?”

We can use it in a stressful situation to relieve tension.  Like when you’re a student in a boarding school, where the headmaster is a former Marine, and expectations are high. You, and all the other students, have taken a big bite of the main course of a meal, prepared by a fellow classmate, only to discover it is absolutely inedible because of too much salt. You silently stare around the table in dread of the consequence that will be coming when the headmaster takes his first taste. Noticing the silent discomfort around the table, he takes a bite, chews, swallows, sips his water, and says, “Please pass the salt.” Needless to say, the ensuing hilarity provides great relief.

The preceding examples are single moments when people were willing to alter the perception of an experience, using humor, and thus make it better for all involved. True humor leads to a lighter heart and a greater sense of connection with others. If you feel something else – it’s probably something else.

 

COURTESYCourtesy comes from the heart – at its root is the French word coeur, which means heart. For the purposes of our discussion of core strength, we mean the heart of the spirit rather than the actual organ of the heart.

Practicing courtesy means thinking about how our actions affect others and caring enough to choose to be polite and well-mannered. Courtesy, like detachment, requires us to maintain a standard of communication and behavior that is in harmony with our sense of what is right.

To really understand what courteous behavior is, it helps to think of the concept of courtliness, which also comes from the root Coeur. Courtliness suggests graciousness of movement, speech, and manner. It means the demonstration of conduct that exemplifies a sense of self worth and dignity. It doesn’t mean stilted formality – instead it takes the form of quiet, easy attention to our own behavior and thoughtfulness toward others.

Treating others as we would like to be treated is the starting point for courtesy, but our good manners certainly don’t guarantee that we will receive the same in return. Sometimes we demonstrate courtesy and do not receive courtesy in return – that’s life, and it does NOT give us justification for discourtesy ourselves. If, say, I hold the door open for someone and he/she breezes through without so much as a glance, much less a thank you, I MUST resist the temptation to snap (or even mutter), “You’re welcome!” or “Yeah, no problem…” You KNOW what I mean.

Another’s discourtesy can sometimes seem to justify the attitude that being courteous doesn’t matter or it’s not worth it. Sometimes our frustration or discouragement can lead us to believe that standards of courteous behavior are old-fashioned or out-of-touch with modern expectations of civility. Well, I emphatically disagree that traditional courtesies have become irrelevant or archaic.

If we stay open and pay attention, we can see small courtesies all around us every day. In fact, just the other day, while I was on a road trip, I was gratified by many total strangers who smiled and spoke to me, and I was especially touched when two young men, in widely separated cities went out of their way to hold a door open for me to pass.

I know what you’re thinking, and no, I wasn’t in a wheelchair, on crutches, using a walker or a cane, herding several small children, or burdened by a heavy load. I was just walking across a parking lot and both times the person specifically waited for me to get there.

Why? They didn’t do it because I was a person who mattered to them personally. They didn’t do it because I was in a position of power and it could pay off later. They didn’t do as an act of reciprocation for something I had done for them.

Well, why then? The answer is that they were moved to perform an act of kindness for their own personal reasons. Admittedly, greeting a stranger or holding a door open for someone is a small gesture of good manners – small, perhaps, but not insignificant. Even small courtesies can make a big difference – when taken together, they can even lead to a completely different way of life. Courtesy can be thought of as lubrication for the “gears” of human relationships – practicing it reduces friction and allows us to interact more smoothly.

Courtesy requires thought and self-discipline. And, yes, both of those imply conscious effort. It’s true; sustained effort requires strength, and that takes us back to why this series is about core strength. We’ve come full circle – again!

SELF CONFIDENCEConfidence comes from two Latin roots that taken together mean faith in/within something or someone. For our discussion of core strength, we will be talking about self-confidence because are values are an aspect of our selves.

Self-confidence is often used as a mistaken synonym for other traits that actually weaken core strength:

Self-confidence is not arrogance, which consists of a sense of undue importance or significance.

Self-confidence is not empty pride based on an exaggerated or inflated assessment of one’s own abilities or gifts; that’s vanity.

Self-confidence is not conceit, which is a flattering opinion of oneself that is conceived or exists in the imagination.

So now that we have a better sense of what self-confidence ISN’T – what IS it? As a core strength, self-confidence is simply faith in oneself. Faith means trust in the truth of a belief, and it gives us the strength to move forward in the face of difficulty or fear. This trust may be based on prior personal experience of achievement, or, initially, it may be a steadfast belief in an ever-present source of strength, derived from a higher power, that gives one the courage to act in the absence of prior experience – an action that will subsequently provide the experience needed to build self-confidence.

Knowing that self-confidence is faith in ourselves, we can recognize that it is a process that builds upon overcoming personal challenges and storing the results of those achievements in our memory for future reference. Self-confidence must be built within the self or individual consciousness of a person. It cannot be granted or given and is not the product of praise or approval from others.

Self-confidence is built through the step-by-step process of facing adversity in a series of increasingly demanding circumstances. To develop self-confidence, it is vitally important for us to encounter obstacles that we must work to overcome.

The Greek poet, Horace put it this way, “Adversity introduces a man to himself.”

Self-confidence does not remove uncertainty or eliminate fear – those two dreadful adversaries still arise; however, we do a great disservice to others and ourselves if we allow them to deprive us of the challenges needed to achieve self-confidence and the priceless quality of self-reliance. Only the insight, skill, and strength gained from direct experience builds the empowering sense of self-trust that leads to the willingness to face challenges with courage and determination.

GRATITUDEGratitude comes from the Latin, gratia, which means grace, favor, or thanks. Grace is defined as a gift bestowed in the service of another that promotes prosperity or personal happiness. It is not earned; it is given as an act of kindness. A gift is something of value transferred without any consideration or payment. Favor, like grace, is also an act of good will. With the powerful concepts of grace and favor as its foundation, gratitude means giving thanks for a benefit or gift that has been granted.

The transforming core strength of gratitude in our lives is demonstrated when we begin to consider the immeasurable value of the many gifts we have received simply as a result of life itself. To attempt to enumerate the favors that have been bestowed upon us is a daunting task indeed, but it is certainly a worthwhile investment of some time each day. Almost as if by magic – disciplining ourselves to become aware of the priceless worth of what we already possess will result in a dramatic change of attitude and experience. Quietly affirming, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you,” every morning when you wake and every night before you drift off to sleep will make a profound difference – try it, you’ll see.

As we recognize that we have been gifted with an irreplaceable array of wonders, we begin to see the value of the incredible beauty that surrounds us. The many hues of the sky, from dawn to dusk and all through the night alone, are breathtaking. The sounds of nature – the unreserved joy of a spring bird singing in the trees, sighing winds, babbling waters, pounding surf, gentle waves on the lakeshore, the myriad small sounds of our minute neighbors on the earth buzzing, croaking, sliding, flying… all of it is a festival of sensation for us to enjoy. The kiss of the sun on a bare cheek, the gentle breeze to cool our brows, the shocking delight of a plunge into cold water, the comfort of fire at our backs – all of these are part of the great gift of nature. It is all around us all the time – it fills our souls and strengthens our spirits, and we best express our gratitude with careful stewardship of the small piece of this magnificent planet we are on – wherever we are.

Our appreciation for nature, as vast as it may be, is a small thing when compared to the tremendous thankfulness we feel when we recognize the great gift of the people in our lives. As we truly consider what those relationships mean to us – from the trusting smiles of precious babies and the gentle wisdom of our elderly to every heart-bounding and even heartbreaking moment in between we know the real meaning of gratitude. And, just as with nature, our gratitude for the people in our lives is best demonstrated through our faithful love and steadfast care – small consistent acts of service are worth more than many words.

This long and meaningful day ends where it began with, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

DETACHMENT PART IIIDetachment is about learning to overcome impulse without eliminating emotion – it’s finding a workable balance between feeling and thinking BEFORE we take action.

So far we have talked about honestly looking at what we are feeling; we’ve confronted what we feel we want to do in the moment – even if it’s outrageous, and we’ve started the process of tempering our urge to take immediate action by using a series of questions designed to reestablish a balance between emotional impulse and rational thought.

The questions thus far have included:

“Is it good for me?”

“Will it help someone else?”

“Is it right?”

The final question is, “Is it the best I can do?” If I was still holding out any faint hope of giving myself permission to let my current feelings guide my actions, this is the “deal breaker.” Maybe, just maybe, I could equivocate enough to allow myself to answer the other questions in the affirmative, but there is no way, even in the midst of emotional turmoil, I can honestly believe that any of the choices, ranging from ramming the other car to rage-filled ranting, is truly the best I can do. Thus, I must answer, “No.” I may feel a vague sense of disappointment that I am no longer even considering any of the previously entertaining self-destructive choices, but I will definitely feel a strong sense of relief.

What’s next? Well, if I answer, “No,” to ANY of the questions listed above, I must choose something else. Even if I managed to answer, “Yes,” to some, or even one, of the questions, I still don’t get to do anything with it, because if I answer even ONE question, “No,” the deal’s off.

So what do I do? Well, that depends – there are lots of possible choices of what I could do once I am committed to what I won’t do – I won’t do any harm to others or myself – and I don’t mean physical harm, although that’s included; I mean the eroding harm of losing faith in my ability to control myself in difficult circumstances, of sowing doubt about my true character, and of sacrificing hard-won self esteem. When I am calm enough to really consider the costs of giving in to my emotion it’s much easier to make a better choice.

To answer the question, “What do I do,” perhaps it is wise to start by going back to the question, “Is it the best I can do?” Since the answer to that question was, “No,” then ask the question, “What is the best I can do?” In the moment, probably the best I can do is to concentrate my mind on what really matters. Start small – it really matters that I drive safely. It really matters that I calm down. It really matters that I remember my core values and use them to guide me away from potential peril and toward something I truly desire. It matters that I retain my freedom.

To keep it simple, think of detachment as three imperative sentences.

Look. Choose. Act.

“Great discipline generates enormous strength,” and the discipline needed to successfully demonstrate detachment provides significant core strength – strength available to use in whatever wonderful way we choose.

One final note… while the example we used in this discussion centered on a negative emotion (anger), detachment is just as empowering and important when balancing positive feelings with rational thinking. Being driven or lured into action by emotion, rather than recognizing the feeling and then making a conscious choice, always carries great risk. Although the impulse may be entirely different, the steps don’t change. Look. Choose. Act.

detachment2Detachment is about learning to overcome impulse without eliminating emotion – it’s finding a workable balance between feeling and thinking before we take action.

Last time we talked about step one (of three), and we tasked ourselves with just looking – looking at what we feel and what we feel we would like to do in the moment. We let our imaginations run wild, knowing that we were only looking and thus we and our intended recipient were safe from any actions that did not demonstrate our guiding core values. While disciplining ourselves to compile the list, we calmed down – one of the many benefits of the step-by-step process of using detachment.

Now on to Step Two… This is where the process begins to sound like work. It is. Not to sound like a broken record, but balancing our emotions with our reason is challenging, thus it takes strength…you get the idea.

Step one has us take a look at our raw feelings and the impulses that have followed. Remember, the Smart Car and the Hummer? Okay, whew! I used up some time imagining, and now I feel a little better – my heart has slowed down and my stomach is settling. I haven’t done anything, and I am not going to do anything, yet.

This second step is about choosing – and since we have already discussed the danger of making choices under the influence of raw emotion, it shouldn’t take too long. By now, perhaps wistfully, we can conclude that all of the options we considered when we were letting our imaginations run wild are “off the table.”

Naturally as we calm down, our list of choices begins to grow in an entirely different direction – a direction that is more in keeping with our true beliefs and standards. The list might now include the possibility of allowing a little space between our cars and getting on with my life. I might ask myself, “What was I doing before this happened? What were my thoughts and intentions? Where was I going?”

You see, as reason slowly returns, we can begin to think more clearly. Answers to our questions are immediate – “Oh yes! That’s right, I was on my way to a job interview.” Or, “Of course, I can’t go chasing some driver all over town – I’m supposed to be going to my children’s school.” So now we are consciously beginning to eliminate the costly choices we fantasized about when we were fully under the influence of our emotion. Sometimes it’s not as cut-and-dried as this example – in fact, most of the time it’s not, which is why we must set up a system to first limit and then guide us when the situation requires more subtle judgments.

I’ve enjoyed the process of thinking about all the wild things I might do, and I’ve benefitted, but I’m not finished because I still haven’t made a choice. Remember step one is about not doing anything, but now it’s time to actually do something. If I’m still not entirely sure what to do, I will ask myself several questions.

I’ve already considered the question, “What do I want to do?” (That turned out to be a little scary, remember?) Before I actually allow myself to act upon the answer to that question, I must ask myself four more questions. This is the point at which I must exert real discipline to be thorough and honest.

Question #1 in the series is, “Is it good for me?” and Question #2 is, “Will it help someone else?”

There’s no way I can convince myself that crashing my car into another car is good for me or the other driver, no matter what he/she has done. It is also pretty easy for me to see that reporting my perception of “the incident” is not going to accomplish anything for either of us. By now, in this case, I probably see that some sort of physical altercation is not good for me and won’t help the other guy. Okay all that may be true, but I might still be able to convince myself that releasing a torrent of profanity strewn words at the careless driver is a good for me – it will relieve my stress, right? I might also be able to convince myself, for a moment, that it would be helpful for the other person – “He’ll never do that again!” (Exceedingly doubtful.)

Okay. So my uncouth verbal attack has made it through the first filter – I am allowing myself to hold to the feeling that it would be good for me and/or would help the other person. I still don’t get to DO anything because there are two more questions I must ask first.

Question #3: Is it right? Uh… that depends upon what you mean by right. Oh no! Not another exploration of definitions! For the purposes of detachment, we are going to use “right “ to mean that which conforms to truth and justice. I know, I know – now we need to define truth and justice. For today – we will use truth to mean verified fact – I can’t possibly verify any “fact” regarding the outcome of my aggressive venting.

Can I ever verify an outcome before I take action? Of course not. But I can draw upon my knowledge and experience to get as close as possible. For example, I can know that someone whose heart has stopped beating will have the potential to survive if I put my CPR training to use and will not have the same chance if I don’t. I can’t know what will happen, because it hasn’t happened yet, but I can use what I know (not what I feel) to develop a working hypothesis that taking action will at least provide the potential for a positive outcome.  Oversimplified, I know, but this discussion is still about detachment, I think.

Next comes justice – for our purposed justice will refer to that which has been earned or is deserved. I know this is another “can of worms,” but we have to keep moving. Am I entirely confident that the person who cut me off has earned my abusive diatribe? Am I certain his actions were intentional toward me? Is it possible that, even in my gigantic vehicle, I could have disappeared in his blind spot? Well it’s obvious that I can’t know any of those things and thus I cannot say with certainty that my actions toward him were earned by him.

So we’re back to, “Is it right?” I can’t say that it is, so I must answer, “No.”

And there’s still more to come…

DETACHMENT

This is one of my favorite values because it is really about freedom, and, although it is not complicated, it is certainly not easy or, as it turns out, short! Instead of burying all of us with one really long article on the entire concept of detachment, I have decided to break it up into three parts. You’ll thank me later.

As a value, detachment does not mean the unhealthy distant or frigid emotional numbness you might think of in terms of a psychological imbalance or disorder!

Detachment as a value is nothing like that! For our consideration of values, detachment is the process of achieving the critical balance between feeling and thinking that we must develop and use in order to consciously choose disciplined actions that demonstrate our core strength. That doesn’t sound easy – it’s not. It takes strength, and that’s why detachment is a value.

Strong emotion certainly impairs our judgment and impacts our thought processes, making it far more difficult to make good choices, but the solution is NOT to eliminate emotion. Instead of fighting our feelings, detachment is about finding the middle ground where emotion and reason can function together.

Practicing detachment requires using a series of steps. The first step is being willing to honestly examine what we are feeling – it requires fearlessly looking right at it, even when it’s not pretty. Remember, we’re not doing anything with it – we’re just looking. Looking isn’t buying!!

In the looking (only) step, we examine our impulses or what we think we want. This step is similar to looking at something we have no intention of “buying” – perhaps you enjoy looking at mansions, exotic travel destinations, opulent jewelry, expensive footwear, cutting-edge electronics, or luxury automobiles. That’s fine, even if you can’t afford to buy them – it’s not like you’re going to “accidentally” end up owning one.

This first step is the only one that allows for ANY self-indulgence. Here’s how it works: I feel angry, really angry with the person who just cut me off in traffic – I narrowly avoided an accident! My heart is pounding. My stomach is churning.  A slight sheen of perspiration has coated my forehead. What do I think I want? I think I want to ram his cute little Smart Car with my enormous and powerful Hummer. (You know I don’t drive a Hummer!) Okay, simple enough. I feel the urge to cause total destruction, even annihilation, if I let my imagination run wild. Well, since this is only happening in the realm of imagination – go ahead. In fact, let it all out IN YOUR IMAGINATION.

My first impulse, and by far the worst, was ramming the car; a close second might be following the other driver and confronting him/her when the car stops – maybe I’ll threaten bodily injury, or maybe I will just try to intimidate the other driver with angry glares or gestures. Perhaps I will just release my frustration in a torrent of self-righteous accusations or jumbled profanity. Maybe I might even consider reporting the incident, but, knowing I would have to engage in significant exaggeration in order to get someone’s attention, I will probably let that idea go almost right away. So just looking at what I am feeling and recognizing my first impulses, I’ve developed a pretty exciting list from which to choose.

I know. I know. You’re thinking this doesn’t sound much like a value. You’re right – it doesn’t sound like a value, but are you remembering the part about the steps? This is just the first of the three, and, although it’s the easiest, it’s still an important one. We don’t make good choices when we are under the influence of emotion – especially not extreme emotion. We all know that driving under the influence is dangerous but making choices under the influence of emotion can be pretty darn risky, too. Detachment is about learning to overcome impulse without eliminating emotion – it’s finding a workable balance between feeling and thinking BEFORE we take action.

Steps two and three are coming soon.

communicationFor the purposes of our continued discussion of core strength, we’ll start with the idea that communication means successfully transferring an idea from one person to another. That’s a start, but it’s not nearly enough…

(I promise we won’t go into any of the other possible meanings of communicate, including the automatic assumption we often make after hearing the word, communicable. You’re welcome.)

By now, we ALL realize that communication involves far more than just the use of words. It is commonly accepted, especially in informal communication, that nonverbal expression, body language and tone of voice, constitute a higher percentage of the total communication than words themselves. In fact, those of us who live/work with children and young adults are intensely aware that words are often used as a last resort.

We must be willing to employ a “nearly-scientific” method in an effort to gain some sort of insight from the jumbled and often conflicting array of “communication” with which we are inundated each day. Such a method requires diligent and keen observation, careful and determined questioning, cautious development of a tentative supposition about the possible meanings of the inputs we have received, followed by exhaustive analysis, further questioning, extremely disciplined patience (in order to avoid the temptation to “jump” to a conclusion too soon), and an open mind so that we may move forward and start the whole process again in pursuit of coherent meaningful communication and understanding. Whew! Sounds arduous…

For our current conversation, communication can only be considered a value when it leads to the development of greater core strength – both within ourselves and in our relationships with others. So our definition of communication now expands to mean the conscious transfer of a prudently constructed idea delivered in an intentional and respectful manner.

Sure, we COULD load up our “word cannon” and take a blast at a concept. In fact, somehow casual, crass, sarcastic, and even cruel communication has become commonplace, especially in high-speed or instant forums, but unfortunately that immature posturing often seems to have taken the place of any useful exchange of ideas. Frankly it’s tedious. Are we enlightened by most of the hastily constructed offerings we encounter? Do any of us feel a greater sense of value or strength as a result of having been exposed to them? I doubt it!

That said, if you have been communicating during the “information age” at all, it’s obvious that we CAN communicate, even clearly sometimes, without setting our standards so high that we require the communication to be meaningful or respectful; however, if we remember that this entire journey is about core strength, then it’s easy to see why we must hold ourselves to a higher expectation. We do not increase our credibility or esteem when we lower our conduct, period.  Yes, it IS harder, hence the need for strength.

We’ve come full-circle and have nestled a number of additional words under the umbrella covering communication as a core strength, including successful, conscious, intentional, meaningful, and, now, respectful. Those terms apply to the entire package – body language, tone of voice, and words.

So now, the challenge: let’s agree to discipline ourselves to “transmit” or “transfer” only when we are willing to follow a higher standard of deliberate competence in crafting and delivering worthy communication.  You KNOW you can do it, and I look forward to hearing from you!

accountabilityDon’t cringe – it’s easy to see this is NOT actually a four-letter word!

Relax; accountability is really just about counting in the beginning.  Making a count leads to accountability, which includes being able to render or furnish a complete and honest account, and then, of course, there’s what you should DO with the information once you have carefully collected and shared it – that’s called taking responsibility, and we’ll talk about that another time.

You might be starting to think this is a conversation about defining terms instead of exploring values, and, in a sense, you would be right! That’s because we really can’t discuss anything in a meaningful way without first defining our terms.

Many values serve as an “umbrella” beneath which other important ideas are gathered. Each element of the umbrella value must be defined and its part in the whole explored. If you think accountability – with its three elements is challenging, wait until we get to honor!

So now you can see that this isn’t going to be all that bad. Today we’re just talking about counting, right? Yes, that’s right – in a way. It’s true that accountability relates to accounting and starts with making a complete and honest list. So what’s the big deal? Could it be the two adjectives (complete and honest) that cause us to worry?

Yes, that’s certainly part of it, and the other part that seems to trouble us is being expected to share (or render) our complete and honest count – even when we’re only giving it to ourselves. Really, though what is the point of a dishonest or incomplete inventory? It’s actually worse than no inventory in many ways. You think you know what you have, so you make decisions and move forward based upon mistaken information. It’s better to just count it all – the bad and the good.

Let’s get back to a complete and honest accounting…

Complete means entire, filled, nothing left out. It’s that simple. I could probably go on, but why? You know exactly what I mean.

Honest – that’s another matter entirely. We talk quite a bit about the difference between honesty and truthfulness around here, and in our ongoing discussion of core values, we may talk more about the differences later, but for now it’s important to know that honest means something much more than simply truthful.

Truthful means giving a reliable account that conveys the truth; however, the account is in response to something that has been asked. Honesty, on the other hand, extends much further – it includes truth in response to something asked but also the truth about something that hasn’t been asked – or the whole truth. It does not allow for equivocation, guile, or fraud.

So now that we have defined our terms, let’s talk about accountability. Accountability as it applies to our exploration means to make a complete and honest accounting of all of our attitudes and actions. The word attitude means position, and, for the purposes of this discussion, it means our position on an idea. We don’t bother to take a position about something that doesn’t matter to us – in that case, rather than developing an attitude toward something, we simply hold an opinion about it. Thus our attitudes are those ideas about which we feel strongly, and they guide all of our actions. Action simply implies movement versus remaining stationary.

So we’ve reached the end – accountability as a core value means the willingness and ability to make a complete and honest accounting of our attitudes and actions. Plain and simple.

courageCourage comes from the Latin root for heart –in the spiritual rather than physical sense.  Courage and bravery appear to be synonyms and are often mistakenly used interchangeably, but their true meaning lies in their vital difference.

As we are using it, courage is a quality of the heart that provides the source of power to push past our fear and physical or emotional pain toward something greater. Courage resides within the mind, soul, and spirit like a well of ever-present strength. Small faithful acts of courage, performed whenever the opportunity arises, add to that waiting well so we may draw upon it when great fortitude is needed to face daunting challenges.

Courage and bravery resemble each other in that both can be expressed in bold or intrepid action. The key difference lies in the reason behind the action. A demonstration of bravery can be an end in itself – a desire to obtain recognition for bold acts. Courage is often much quieter and signifies a conscious decision that something of greater value lies on the other side of a present danger or fear, and the only way to reach it is by going through the existing adversity. Courage is most often expressed through calm determination and fortitude rather than through showy acts.

Jumping off a high cliff into deep water is unquestionably bold. We must overcome a natural sense of self-preservation to make the leap. If we do it in order to gain recognition for its own sake or for material gain – that’s brave. If we make the jump to help another in distress (as in to rescue) – that’s courage. The undaunted spirit needed to take the daring action appears to be the same, but the underlying motivation is entirely different.

Courage is a beautiful quality of the mind, soul, and spirit. It resides in our hearts and guides our actions when we face adversity. Our courage is inspired by a sense of personal spiritual connection to a deep and great cause.