History does not often remember people who did exactly what was perfectly normal and expected of them. To move the world forward, we must put ourselves into it. Nothing happens if we only go with the flow of whatever is going on. We all must advocate for what is right at some point in our lives. Sometimes doing the right thing is popular. Other times, especially when it is difficult or costly, it is not. The right thing needs an advocate sometimes specifically because it is not popular. Before there was a Civil War, there were numerous and unpopular abolitionists and courageous formerly enslaved people who took great risks to change public consciousness.
How do we train to become the people willing to advocate for what is right? Courage is what underpins it all. In Tumfo Tu, fear is considered a natural enemy. It causes us to freeze and prevents us from taking necessary actions. This includes doing the right thing when it is difficult. Living life according to our principles requires enormous courage. Every step we take in life is a risk.
Cultivating the courage for life starts when we stop seeking validation from external sources. Some right decisions are easy to make, such as getting to work on time or refraining from lashing out in anger. Easy right decisions are often rewarded by external sources such as friends, bosses, or society at large. Difficult right decisions are seldom rewarded and are sometimes even punished by external sources. For example, choosing to wear a mask to avoid spreading infections to vulnerable family members in a setting where others are opposed to wearing masks has sometimes prompted significant backlash and certainly provided no validation. The only validation that comes is peace from the internal congruence of your will and your actions. When we are seeking validation externally, the importance of that internal congruence seems minuscule. When we learn to value being true to our conscience above external validation, a whole new world of courage opens.
The other side of being able to do the right thing when it is difficult is knowing what the right thing is. It is certainly true that convictions are not always correct. Compelling villains are usually people with strong convictions who live true to them but end up harming others, such as Black Panther’ Erik Killmonger. They lack the humility needed to adjust their convictions when they stop being beneficial. Adjusting conviction takes courage as well. It means acknowledging being wrong and doing the work to change habits or patterns of thought.
Living life with conviction means living life courageously and embracing vulnerability. It is a truly daring act. Every step has the potential to be painful and terrifying. In Tumfo Tu, we practice having courage to take that next step.