Written by the Rev. Christian Schmidt for the Rev. Theresa Ines Soto and the good people of greater Flint!
“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently.” – Maya Angelou
Each day I try to live up to being my best self, even as I figure out, also daily, just what that means.
I want to do well at being a husband and parent, I want to do well at my job, I want to be a good ally to people of color, I want to preach a good sermon this Sunday to my congregation here in Berkeley, Calif., I want to go exercise so I can be healthy, etc., etc., etc.! Maybe you have a similar list of your own you think about sometimes.
Inevitably I fail at this. We all do, right? If being our best selves was easy, we would all be
doing it all the time. So sometimes I do pretty well, and then there are days that are a struggle. Sometimes my failure is my own human limits, exhaustion, bad habits, or lack of willpower. These are frustrating limits, but they’re far less frustrating than that other thing that stops me: fear.
No doubt we’ve all experience fear that has stopped us from doing something. Which is why Angelou’s words here are an important reminder for all of us. We go through our daily lives with an infinite number of opportunities to live out our values. Sometimes that’s easy – thanks, convenient recycling container! – and sometimes it’s hard – calling out a friend who made a racist joke.
It takes courage to cultivate any virtue, Angelou says. What she doesn’t say is that this is because our world and our culture makes it so very easy not to practice virtues. Too often we see bad behavior rewarded, at least in this short run.
I’m sure there are people out there who practice virtue on their own, who have everything they need all by themselves. I don’t know any of these people. The people I know are more like me; they need others, they need community, they need support and the occasional kick in the butt.
Which for me is where our congregations come into the picture.
I think of all the UU congregations across the nation and world that will come together in worship this Sunday. I know each is unique, but all of them share something amazing. I go to church for many reasons, but the most important one is this: I want to be with people that make me more courageous. I need to be with people who push me to do the things I’m scared to do but know I should. Courage isn’t about not being afraid; it’s about being afraid and doing the thing anyway.
Friends, go do the thing today, and tomorrow, and next Sunday when the community comes together once again. We’re here to give you courage! And best wishes to you and yours from sunny California.