Having courage and kindness are both hailed in our society. But we often make the mistake of separating the two. Instead, let's consider the fact that courage and kindness are intrinsically linked.
“Have Courage and Be Kind.” – Cinderella
In the 2015 live action telling of the Cinderella fairytale, the Princess makes a point to remind herself and those around her to have courage and to be kind. (It has an 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, see it!)
But these are particularly inspirational words to live by, and I'm drawn to them because it appeals so well to both our strong and gentle sides – and promotes a good balance between the two.
What does it mean to "have courage"?
Having courage means stepping outside of your comfort zone AND doing something worthwhile. Of course, bravery has different levels. But it all starts with taking a personal risk. You can be courageous by standing up for yourself. Standing up for others. Speaking truth that's likely difficult for others to hear.
Courage takes reaching down to a very primal place. It means following your gut instinct, to take action and do the right thing – despite the potential consequences.
We often describe our servicemen and women as brave and courageous for their willingness to put their very lives on the line for the betterment of others.
But sometimes, courage means simply not giving up. A brave person is one who does all they can to keep their spirit and willpower ignited.
In Cinderella, she doesn't allow her spirit to break by the cruelty of her step-family. She stays true to her gut instinct at all times. And yet her kindness remains.
What does it mean to "be kind"?
Put simply, kindness is when you take others into consideration when making a choice. For example, if you saw someone drop their wallet on the sidewalk, you'd have three choices. You could continue on uninterrupted (neutral choice). You could keep the wallet (cruel choice). Or you could stop and return their lost possession (kind choice).
But kindness can be subtler, especially when combined with courage. Consider this: you're about to speak a truth that might be difficult for someone to hear. Those words never need to be cruel or punishing. When you word your truth in a way that considers the other person's feelings, you're making a kind decision while taking a brave stance.
Further, kindness comes through in your tone and the overall energy that you give off. Can't you often tell just by looking at someone whether they're likely kind and open? It's in the facial expression, body language, eye contact, and so on. Beyond how your words come out, consider how you're coming off too.
Combining Kindness and Courage
It can be a challenge to find the sweet spot between standing up for your beliefs while not imposing them on others. Saying what needs to be said is brave; doing so gracefully is kind.
You've probably heard that being kind can make you a pushover. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Kindness when it's undeserved or unexpected (or both) is an act of pure strength and willpower. And frankly, if you're a kind person (and you know you are), it's courageous to stay true to who you are at your core.
Most circumstances in our lives are out of control. Yet we're always accountable to how we react to those circumstances. But when we make both courage and kindness our guiding principles, we can stay on course to happiness.