Success is never permanent. Failure is never final. It is the courage to continue that matters most.
— Sir Winston Churchill
I’ve just watched the Oscar winning performance of Gary Oldman as Sir Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour” and am in awe of the leadership and imperfection that was portrayed in the life of one of history’s most colorful and charismatic leaders. As usual I will not spoil the film for those who may not have seen it, but one clear message that sticks with me is how important the belief in oneself is in life. There is wisdom to periodically question yourself, and value in listening to your gut but also to seek the counsel of others.
As depression strikes people, we doubt our ability to perform even simple tasks. We question our judgment, fall prey to detractors, and lose confidence often in a visible and noticeable way. Depression never chooses a good time to slap us in the face or pin us to the floor. Just this week I’ve had two very powerful people succumb to depression, and I was very grateful to be welcomed into their trust when they asked for my ear. Both are learned professionals, dedicated to their jobs, and known to me for over forty years. Both have survived divorce, abuse, and learned for themselves to survive and to cope at early ages.
What I find to be most admirable about them both is that they possess immeasurable courage to continue. One is a school teacher who was devastated by the school shooting at Parkland, Florida. She teaches special needs students and was commanded by the state of Florida to present a video recorded message preparing young school children in the event of a live shooter siege that might occur. As my teacher friend screened the message, the gravity of what was conveyed hit her. She envisioned what might happen if she had to place herself in the line of fire in order to protect a beloved student. The weight of this development in her job, on top of immense responsibility for managing the care of her mother, an Alzheimer’s sufferer, was too much and she snapped. By the time I was able to see her at the hospital, she had already recovered significantly to know that she could no longer be a teacher in a state like Florida, where we have spineless leaders, owned by the wealthy gun manufacturers, unwilling to limit in any way the access to Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Courage to continue was driven by self preservation, but also for the precious family for which she will always be a rock.
Do we give ourselves credit for our courage?
Can you remember the last time you stroked your own ego, even if just a little bit, for the courage we summon to power through difficult times? It’s not hard to find people in our circle of friends, those people who are battling dread disease, or have endured abuse of some kind. Humans are resilient, even if in the midst of a depressed episode we may not feel like it. I was worried for my two friends because it is my nature to be pessimistic. When it comes down to it, at no time during these long friendships have I ever been disappointed by them. As I sat by the bedside of my very beleaguered teacher friend, she thanked me and reminded me of times in our history that I’d come to her aid years ago, the things which I’d long forgotten, and she has long remembered. In return and without thought for the cost, she had pulled me from a two year depression that followed my divorce. Courage is just a helping hand to get started down the path that we know is away from depression and toward feeling better. I’d like to recommend to anyone reading this that you can easily find one thing for which you deserve credit for having the courage to continue. Celebrate it. Replicate it. Pay it forward, and hold on to the great feeling of being courageous.