Monday, 13 May 2013

Courage and Conviction

It is generally considered a good thing to have courage and convictions. ‘She is a woman of great conviction’ or ‘He is a most courageous man’ or even ‘He has the courage of his convictions’ which rather neatly ties the two qualities together.

And, in general, I would tend to agree.

In particular, good leaders need both courage and conviction. A political leader lacking in either quality ends up being weak, which is how many of our present political leaders are regarded.

This applies to military leaders too. A good general is one who has courage, but will also need conviction. In the heat of battle there is no time for convening a meeting, discussing the options and delaying a decision until a consensus is reached.

And, of course, conviction and courage are also desirable qualities in church leaders. Ministers need to be women and men of conviction and they also need courage. Decisions are not always easy, nor are they always universally popular! That much is self-evident.

A good minister will sometimes need to express their convictions strongly and have the courage to stick by them, the courage to express them clearly and honestly, the courage to stand firm when opposition and resistance are experienced, and even the courage to put up with threats of leaving the congregation or the actuality of members lifting their lines and going elsewhere. This is never easy and rarely enjoyable, but that is where conviction and courage come into play.

But I wonder if sometimes what some of us ministers imagine is courage and conviction is in fact something rather more self-indulgent and a good deal less commendable. Stubbornness, arrogance, cockiness and rigid unbending certainty can occur too. And we can convince ourselves that we are being people of conviction and courage when in fact we are simply being brash, belligerent or even bullying.

We need courage. We need the courage of our convictions. But we also need the courage to care, the courage to listen, the courage to admit when we got it wrong, and the courage to change our minds. And while we will all value and respect firm convictions honestly held and will wish to stick by our convictions, there will be a time when true courage in revealed in compromise.

Courage brother, courage sister, do not stumble... in God and do the right.

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