Jay Rifenbary

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Courage and Sacrifice - A Profile of Character

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Reflecting on this past holy week, sacrifice and courage come to mind. The sacrifice and courage of a people liberated from Egyptian bondage, and the sacrifice and courage of a man with the desire to free mankind from the bondage of its own sins. Courage is defined as, “the ability to do something that frightens one, strength in the face of pain or grief”, and a definition of sacrifice is “an act of giving something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important and worthy.” There are many who believe that having the courage to strive for freedom, and to protect the moral value of humanity, are worth even the sacrifice of their own lives. What is the basis of strength behind demonstrating courage and warranting sacrifice? It is a belief in something greater than our self. A focus and purpose toward a goal that reflects the core values you believe in.

When was the last time you displayed courage? Was it in the face of demonstrated unfairness toward another? Was it standing up for a principle you believed in, even at the risk of your own personal safety or professional security? Was it a time where you decided not to just go with the flow because everyone else was doing it? The strength to demonstrate courage is challenging if you do not understand what it is you stand for and believe in. Without a foundation of core values there is no platform for consistent behavior and therefore courage is rarely displayed. When being courageous is based on moral principle and an ethical foundation of goodness toward others, the ability to sacrifice what is needed to make that decision and achieve that goal is validated.

One of the questions I ask during my organizational training presentations is, “How do you motivate others.” The answer is, “You make people feel valued.” I follow that up with an interactive exercise. I select a person from the audience and ask the other attendees to share a characteristic of leadership they believe that person possesses that inspires others to look up to them and to respect them? Immediately I receive responses that commonly include characteristics such as kind, respectful, genuine, caring, selfless, humble, fair, honest, but the one attribute I am most impressed with is when a colleague shares that this individual possess courage. It is always interpreted by others that this particular person has strength of character and someone you would want to follow when times are difficult. A person who is more likely to take a risk, buck the system, and do what is right in the face of disagreement and rebuke.

Courage is more than just an external behavior displayed, for example on the battlefield. It is an internal strength of character that demonstrates a firm belief in the causes one believes in and the willingness to sacrifice to see that cause come to fruition. A barometer for your level of courage can be measured by how much you care about what others may think of you. Do you sacrifice your own principles for acceptance by others? Do you place more value on how others perceive you than how you perceive yourself? That type of sacrifice is self-destructive because it violates personal honesty. Personal honesty is achieved when how you view yourself is in alignment with how others view you. It takes courage to be personally honest, because each day there are temptations, distractions, and your own vulnerabilities that negatively influence that alignment.

A theme that has always carried through my “No Excuse!” message has been the value of thinking more about others than our selves. The most valuable courageous and sacrificial acts have always been when the aftermath has been for the betterment of those around us. It takes guts to stand up for what you believe is right. It is also imperative to ensure that taking that stand is a true reflection of who you are, and the values you believe in. Be courageous in all you do. Many in our society, particularly our children, are yearning for leaders of courage and strength of character. Be that example today and every day.



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