how to find courage

How to Find Courage

Lynn Swann was one of the finest receivers ever to play the game of football. A star out of Southern Cal, Lynn was a great player with the Steelers. Lynn also took ballet—not very popular for men in the 1970s. But Lynn thought ballet would improve his body control and consequently help him become a better football player. In the macho world of pro football, that certainly wasn’t the norm, and I know he took a lot of grief for it. But Lynn didn’t care what other people said about his decision to take ballet. He just did it. And it takes real courage to do what you think is best, even when you might be ridiculed for it.

Looking back on his four Super Bowl rings and Hall of Fame career, I’m sure Lynn Swann is glad he didn’t give in to peer pressure back then. We all can show that kind of courage every day. Here’s how.

Know what’s right and be prepared.

No one is immune to peer pressure. We’re susceptible to it at any age. It’s just that as we get older, we do a better job of rationalizing it or hiding it altogether. But through the years, I’ve learned another way of dealing with it. These days, when I face the burden of peer pressure, I make sure I know for myself what is right and am prepared to stick with it. Courage can be demonstrated by standing up to the school bully or intervening to prevent someone you don’t know from being hurt. But more often than not, it’s the day-to-day moments of reaching down inside yourself to find the courage to stand alone that can be toughest.

Sharpen your internal compass.

I pay attention to my internal compass. I think it has always been there, guiding me. But as I’ve matured, I’ve listened to it better and more often. It helps me stay “lashed to the mast,” as Homer wrote of what Odysseus did to keep from being drawn into destruction by the Sirens. That Greek myth resonates because we can relate to that feeling. Even when we know we are heading toward something that could lead to our destruction, it can seem awfully appealing. That internal compass, sharpened by having positive peers around me and by studying my Bible, keeps me lashed to the mast.

Some of the most rewarding times in life are when you have to stand alone, even if you are uncomfortable doing so. Life is hard. Courage is essential.

Sound off: What experiences in your life have required the most courage?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you do when you feel pressure from your friends to do something you think is wrong?”