Our Doctrine page says “Courage: To have the will. To be a Jedi sometimes means choosing the more difficult path, the personally expensive one. A Jedi knows they must make the right choice, take the right side, and that the weak they have sworn to defend often stand alone. A Jedi puts aside fear, regret, and uncertainty yet knows the difference between courage and sheer stupidity.”
I think that’s about right, at least for the proverbial Jedi who is the perfect specimen of Jedi-liness. For the rest of us, it’s maybe something to aspire to, like many of our other ideals.
Cowardice is when we let fear get the better of us, the fear that we all feel at some point in our lives. It stems from greater concern for the self than concern for others who may be facing the same situation. It can make us stop in our tracks, doubt ourselves, miss an opportunity, or in some cases, make us tuck-tail and run in the opposite direction. Everyone has times, or at the very least has had times, when this happens to them, and while it may not fit well into our idea of what a Jedi ought to be, it fits very well as part of what experiencing being a human being is. We can’t be entirely free from our self-concerned egos, and sometimes we lose our composure.
Courage, on the other hand, is when we best the fear, doing what must be done despite the fear we feel or the risk that may be involved. It often involves selfless action, stemming from greater concern for those around you rather than yourself. It can be perseverance under the weight of adversity, or simply standing up for something you feel is right, even when the odds are against you. Clearly, of the two, Courage is the nobler, the one that a Jedi strives to achieve at every opportunity, as we seek to accept our egos for what they are and act (sometimes) from a place other than our perceived separate self.
You feel the fear either way, but it’s a matter of how you choose to respond that makes the difference.
Something tricky with these concepts that I’d like to make note of is that it isn’t always cowardly to run, nor is it always courageous to fight. It may depend more on the intent of the action, rather than the performed action itself. A person who fights or stands up for something to further their image in the eyes of others is not being courageous, they’re being a show-off. A person who knows when their influence is spent and retreats is not a coward, they are living to fight another day. What’s right in each situation will be determined by the circumstances of that situation; having a rigid rule wouldn’t work well with that...
So why “Cowardice, yet Courage?” Why is that the reflection of the month/title of this sermon?
Because we contain both, and like the wolves in that supposed Native American story that gets passed around so much, it’s the one that you feed that thrives. In this case, the “Jedi Way” is to be courageous at all opportunities, but this is one that ultimately you have to hold yourself to. You will act with and without courage at different times in your life, and no one can make you have courage. It’s up to you, you’ve got to find and use it yourself.
I always try not to sound preachy when I write these things. I don't like trying to tell others how to live their lives (even if I occasionally make suggestions; motherly instinct :p), especially when I'm no expert on living anyway; no more than anyone else, I suppose. That being said, I don't feel like I'm in any position to tell any of you "stop being a coward, start being brave" or anything like that, because I'd be a hypocrite. There are definitely times when I've acted in my own interest, or backed down from a challenge because it would have been in some way "dangerous" to me, or my ego, and I'm willing to bet the rest of you and the rest of them have too. I don't like it, and I don't feel very Jedi-ly when it happens, but it's part of life, being human. We learn, and we grow, and we know how to be courageous the next time. If there's anything you get from this, I hope it's that. Don't be too hard on yourself, just get it right next time.