Words on words: understanding the two faces of courage


Alice Yu

[dropcap style=”light” size=”5″ class=”A”]F[/dropcap]amous for his peace-keeping efforts as Great Britain’s prime minister during World War II, Winston Churchill was born on November 30, 1874 and died January 24, 1965. Churchill served two terms as prime minister, one during 1940-1945 and another from 1951-1955. While he may be known mostly for his role as the prime minister, Churchill was also a soldier (a graduate of the Royal Military College of Sandhurst) and was also in tours of duty in Cuba, India, Egypt, Sudan and the front lines of World War I. Churchill began his political career at the age of 25 and went on to serve as a statesman in the House of Commons, First Lord of Admiralty, Minister of Munitions, Chancellor of the Exchequer and of course, prime minister. We Columbians have the luck of being a 34 minute drive away from where he delivered his well-known “Iron Curtain” speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri.
Just like my previous post discussing the quote, “Speak in such a way that other love to listen to you; Listen in such a way that other love to speak to you,” this quote revolves around the importance of balancing listening and silence. Who else can serve as a better teacher for building relationships than the man who was able to boost the morale of an entire country after refusing to submit to Nazi Germany?
There is a time and place for everything
If you or someone you know is getting bullied, that would be a time to stand up and speak. If any governmental or institutional authority introduces a new policy that you don’t like, it might be a good idea to hear all the provisions in the policy as well as understand the reasoning behind the policy before shouting out protests. To calm the passion inside of you for just a bit takes quite a bit of self-control and that in itself is commendable. To fight for what you believe is right is admirable, but to pause and reflect on your actions and your reasoning behind what you believe is right, that, my friend, is wise.
Take it from good ol’ Winston; sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut
I like to win arguments. There’s no denying that it feels good to establish superiority. But I don’t like knowing that just because I wanted to be a winner, someone else was shut down verbally and emotionally. It took me 15 years to come to this realization, and I’ve been holding on to it since. I’m sure there’ve been times when I let the idea of superiority slip past my defenses and push me to go on the offensive, but I always try to come back.
Even when I know with 100 percent certainty that I did put my all into practicing piano that day, I still let my mother scold me. My poor performance might be just a small trigger that released an avalanche of negative pent-up feelings my mother kept to herself for days. To sit and listen to the underlying hints of frustration she’s letting go one-by-one is something I’d take pride in doing. I’d much rather allow her to let off steam on me, albeit a bit misguided, than add onto her list of undoubtedly growing concerns and cares. In my eyes, that’s more courageous and powerful than engaging in an argument to prove my “right-ness”.
In a world surrounded by noise, it’s nice to have breaks of silence. Imagine all the verbal battles that would’ve had a different ending, had someone just let their comebacks rest in its protective sheath and listened—with their full attention—to what the other party was trying to express. I really cannot stress enough how important it is to understand both components of communication. Communication is expressing what you want others to know, but also receiving someone else’s messages with open hands and an understanding mind.
art by Alice Yu