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Raising children is a demanding job. It’s often a matter of life or death. Food, clothing, and shelter are the obvious and immediate obligations we seek to provide for our kids. Things like health and education are constantly top of mind.

But what about those longer-term values human beings need to know to operate with a basic level of happiness and understanding in the world? 

Aristotle believed in developing a set of character virtues to ensure our conduct was excellent. If we possess character virtues, we’ll know how and when to do the right thing. The aim of living well is eudaimonia, a Greek word translated as living well, happiness, or flourishing. 

He had four cardinal virtues: prudence, temperance, courage, and justice. From a parenting perspective, it seems to me that courage can be viewed as the most important. Humans need courage to achieve the other three virtues.

As a Latin word, the root word of courage is “cor,” meaning “heart.” In its earliest forms, the word courage meant “to speak one’s mind by telling all of one’s heart.”

As the word evolved with time, its meaning changed and it’s often associated with outward acts like heroic and brave deeds. This new definition fails to recognize the most important part of courage – the inner strength and deep commitment a person must possess to speak openly about who we are and for what we stand tall and proud in the here and now.

As a kid, I was infatuated with sports. I participated in them all. They consumed my life and frankly, defined who I was. The top of my list was wrestling. I took it seriously and traveled far and wide competing. Then a back injury prematurely ended my career in the infancy of high school. It cut deep and I’ve dealt with it ever since.

What we don’t realize that as parents, we are always teaching our kids. Sometimes it’s with words but most of the time it’s with how we act and react. The courageous person judges hat some dangers are worth facing and others are not. They experience fear to an appropriate degree. That courage lies between the coward who flees danger and the rash person who judges all danger as worth facing and experiences little to no fear.

That balance allows us to be vulnerable. Brene Brown defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure” and believes that “vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It’s the source of authenticity.”

The vulnerability allows us to get clarity on our purpose and find deeper meaning in our lives. 

Unfortunately, my back injury changed the course of my athletic career. 

Fortunately, I had a mom that through her actions, taught me courage; giving me the inner strength and commitment to stand tall and be present in the here and now, not defined by my past hardships.

Thanks, mom.

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