I’ve been struck recently about how important and necessary courage is. So many people I know live their lives with almost tangible courage.
Maya Angelou says that ‘Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because, without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.’
I’ve got a friend, Sandra, who is one of the most amazing people you could meet. She has a serious illness which means she has to use a wheelchair to get around. She’s always smiling, always the first with a kind word and always the one who notices when others need a helping hand or a bit of support. Her life is hard but she’s courageously living it well.
Recently, I met with some women leaders to talk about leadership and how we can support younger women leaders. As we talked it became clear that for all of us being a Woman Leader had been tough, that we’d all been hurt along the way and that some of us were still carrying that hurt.
Some of these women had seriously considered giving up leadership because they’d found it so tough and so isolating. Many of them said that they’d been deeply hurt because they felt misunderstood, badly treated or just plain criticised. What was terrible was that, often, the fiercest critics were other women.
We’d all been hurt along the way and some were still carrying that hurt.
As we spent time together, one woman would talk about her experiences while the rest of us listened. When each had finished talking someone else would cheer her on, giving wise advice or great encouragement. These women who had been beaten down by their experiences were being cheered on and celebrated. It was a life-giving time.
When we left that room the loneliness, discouragement and criticism were still real. But now, alongside that, we had also experienced something new. We’d experienced what it felt like to be accepted, understood and loved.
It was incredibly healing.
Katherine Center says: ‘You have to be brave with your life so that others can be brave with theirs.’ Sometimes life can knock us so hard it feels impossible to get up again. Being brave can be very hard work.
Together, in that room, we discovered that courage is contagious. And that it’s much easier to be courageous when others are cheering you on.
As I reflected on our time together, I realised that we need a Sisterhood Revolution. We need women to become better at being sisters to each other, to commit to cheering other women on, to being there for others and to be the friends we all need and long for.
So what stops us if we all need this encouragement?
A former President of the USA said: ‘Comparison is the thief of joy.’ It is so easy to compare yourself with other women. It is so easy to view other women as the competition especially when they have similar talents and skills as you. It is so easy, but comparison is a trap; be careful you do not fall into it.
Next time, you see another woman doing something well, encourage her, celebrate her, tell her that you’re cheering her on. You never know what being ‘brave’ like that will mean to her. Or to you . . .
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