Cowards... One of my favorite quotes is this one:
“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
Another quote I love is this one:
“A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.”
We use the word coward and cringe. Yet, at one time or another, we are all guilty of cowardliness. That is human. There are cowardly acts, and cowards and the two are not synonymous. The question is not did we commit a cowardly act, , but what did we do with it. How did we take that moment and become better because of it? That is the mark of a coward and what distinguishes that person from every other human being. The cowardly act and how you deal with your moment of cowardliness in it's light.
You see, I have had my own moments of cowardly acts. I see no pride in those acts and I do not seek to justify them once I see them for what they truly are. I try to look back and I see my cowardliness and I own it, I accept it and I admit it humbly and hope to learn from it. I hope to be stronger as a result of that which I recognize was a me being less than I could have been. I'm not perfect at it, sometimes it's hard to see ourselves in a dispassionate manner - but I try.
It is those we love that suffer from our cowardly acts and if in those acts we truly become cowards. It is the coward who professes to love someone, and yet, willingly allows that someone to be usurped through their cowardly acts which go uncorrected.
As with Hiroshima, those who were consumed with the fire are not those that suffered the most. It is those who were exposed to the radiation and it's untold effects, that will suffer. I'm am not calling them cowards, of course, I am simply comparing what happened to them to what happens to the coward. It is the long term destruction wrought by cowardliness that we do not see nor can we expect because, just like the radiation, the cause is invisible and the impacts unknown.
For all of us, in our cowardly moments, there will be a day of reckoning. The reckoning is not the just judgement of whatever God you might or might not believe in, but it is the after effect of our decisions years down the road. The reckoning does not come in threats or duress, but through natural consequences of the action itself. Our actions or lack of actions, for what ever reason the cowardliness comes, will come back to haunt us.
Because, in our cowardliness, we choose to ignore the truth that we know (or that we might learn if we but looked for it), and we fail to act as we should have acted in the beginning. Over time, this just builds on itself until, we have no idea what the truth is. Since we don't know the truth, we don't know the implications of that truth - until years down the line the implications are made manifest.
And God help us if our cowardliness is unchecked when we have children. If we choose to live in our cowardliness what is the long term impact to our children? If we allow children to perform cowardly acts without consequence or correction, who is truly responsible for such a thing? We are. In this, again, beyond whatever God you might have to deal with someday, your children will bring your cowardliness full circle and you will reap what you sow.
And when the impacts of our unchecked cowardliness is made manifest - it can be so bloody. We wonder what happened and don't realize that we have lost ourselves in the fog created by our cowardliness so long ago. The coward inside has crafted a story and we have chosen to believe it and internalize it. Even when the result of your cowardliness is made manifest - it's likely that the coward will never realize the real root cause of that manifestation because the root cause is forgotten - in another act of cowardliness.
The coward is the one that hides in the darkness, cloaked in anonymity - hurling threats, accusations and false information to hurt another. You see, a coward is a rat, and rats scurry from the light because it shows them for who they are.
I challenge everyone to stand up and take stock of yourself. Are your actions those of a one with principle or one with a streak of cowardliness. Do you stand up for what is right, do you seek the truth, or do you just wait and hope that the answers will magically manifest themselves for you? Do you shrink from the hard truths and give in to the easy lies - that make it easier to live your life? Do you face your demons or do you shrink from them? Do you tell the truth, no matter the cost - or do you take the easy road to lies and forging of false memories? Do you choose to make your own decisions, or do you just surf with the crowd and hope not to be noticed or held accountable?
I am not perfect and I suspect that I will still have moments of cowardliness... I hope that I can look back on those moments, learn from them, and move forward as a better man understanding the mistakes I have made.
I hope you will do the same. So that when the day of accounting comes - and it will - that you will look yourself in the face and be able to say, "I was once a coward - and this is the cause. I am a coward no more - and that is the result." It's an iterative process, but it's a noble one.