Recently I participated in a Zoom meditation class where the teacher talked about courage. She offered a definition that I hadn’t heard before.
“Cour,” she said, comes from the French word for “heart,” and our English word “courage” has evolved from the idea of “claiming one’s heart.”
Claiming one’s heart.
I couldn’t find that definition in an online search. Instead, I found definitions like Merriam-Webster’s which calls courage the “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”
That sounds right, but where do we get that “mental or moral strength”?
I think you could argue that it begins with searching our heart to determine that we really do need to set out on that difficult course, whether it’s a challenging conversation or taking a new career path or taking action to save someone’s life.
We search — and claim — our heart before we act, and that gives us the fortitude to do what needs to be done.
Scripture is full of courageous acts and words of encouragement — the latter word coming from another French heart-word meaning to “make strong, hearten.”
Many of us can use a good dose of courage to get through this time in which our lives — and those of loved ones — might have turned upside down. We also need and can offer each other encouragement.
I recently found myself in Psalm 27, the beginning and end of which offer David’s beautiful words that sound like a man claiming his heart.
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
13 I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
Various commentaries say that in the final verse David is offering the message to himself: “Wait for the Lord.”
In this season of waiting — waiting for a pandemic to pass … waiting for life to return to some semblance of normal — may these words offer encouragement to you.
[I invite you to pair this reflection with a little yoga — my related class is found here.]
 Mariann T. Johnson, University of Minnesota, “Stress Busters” online class, April 21, 2020.