Courage: What to do When Everything Goes Wrong

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” – CS Lewis

We have all had those moments, you’re enjoying a beautiful sunny day with everything going your way, when all of a sudden you get a phone call or experience a series of events that completely turn your world upside down.

What we don’t have all have is the proper reaction to these situations. Many people fold under pressure or let the difficulty of a life situation leave a lasting negative impact on their state of mind. The people who don’t: are the courageous.

All of the greatest figures in history have recognized courage as one of the greatest virtues of manhood. The courageous person is one who welcomes the trials of life; they approach them with a hardened body and a hardened spirit and know that every trial only makes them wiser and more prepared for the next.

But what about those of us…who aren’t so hardened? How do we make it through life’s trials? Well, if you’ve been visiting this site, I’m offering plenty of material on learning to make it through the difficult facets of life. The key to passing a trial is often in the simplicity. Simple steps and logical measures will lead to the necessary fortitude to weather any storm.

So, here are some steps on fostering courage when you find yourself in the inevitable throes of life’s toughest moments:

  1. Calm down and Stay Calm. This is quite possibly this single most difficult thing to do in a desperate and difficult situation. However, it is also the most important. As I will often say, things seem ten times worse in the heat of the moment than they actually are. And if they actually are as bad as they seem, then your sense of panic will cloud your judgment and cripple your ability to take appropriate action.
  2. Think. Thinking is vital. Don’t rush headlong into a “quick-fix” or the first thing that pops into your head. Take a moment to weigh all of your options before you try to address a problem. This will save you from making a mistake you’ll regret later
  3. 3. See the situation as an opportunity to use your life skills. Most of us have learned some sort of emergency life skill; whether it’s having been in the boy scouts, receiving CPR training, or even learning to dial 911. Skills will have no effect if we can’t use them in the proper situations; and situations that require true life skills are few and far between. So put those skills to good use – the smallest positive action can make all the difference.
  4. Don’t Pity Yourself. Take solace in the fact that whatever situation you’re in, someone – many someones – have been in that situation before. What’s more, someone – many someones – are probably in worse situations. This is no time to start cursing the world for burdening you. This is the time to show your mettle.

“Why then should we wonder if God tries noble spirits severely? There can be no easy proof of virtue. Fortune lashes and mangles us: well, let us endure it: it is not cruelty, it is a struggle, in which the oftener we engage the braver we shall become. The strongest part of the body is that which is exercised by the most frequent use.” – Seneca

  1. 5. If there’s no clear leader, take charge. If you’ve found yourself in a desperate situation that has affected multiple people, and there is no one who is qualified or willing to take charge, then that person has to be you. Being the person to organize transportation, look into assistance, or whatever the situation calls for, requires a steadfast individual – be that individual and make a difference. And just as importantly (if not more importantly)…
  2. 6. You must be able to save yourself. I don’t mean to be childish, but remember that scene in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban where he’s watching dementors tear him apart as he waits on his “dad” to save him? And then he realizes…the person who needed to act…was him. If everything has gone wrong, or you’re in an emergency, everyone will be losing their head, so you have to lead. And if you’re on your own, you definitely have to lead. No one will be there to save you but you. They say that the world will only assist people who try get back up. So rest if you must, but don’t give in to a situation – keep working for a solution and your own salvation.
  3. Don’t be afraid to get creative. Creative solutions can usually be the best in a pinch. I was in a situation where I found myself in Southeast Asia without any cash, credit cards, or access to phones or internet needing to get across a large city so that I could address the predicament that I had found myself in. I approached multiple people trying to explain the difficult situation that I had found myself in. Between the language barrier, disdain for foreigners and general disinterest, I became rather discouraged.

But I remembered something that one of my closest friends once told me. I have always been an avid dancer, and he said something to the effect of: “If you ever really need money, you could always be a street performer.” I had nothing to lose in this situation, so I thought, “Why not?” I took out my travel speakers and danced myself into a good mood, and what do you know? Before I knew it, I had enough money to make it across the city and have a good meal on the way. Don’t be afraid to be unconventional. If you’re in the worst of situations, what do you have to lose?

  1. It’s okay to make mistakes. No one gets out of a tough spot without stumbling here and there. If you are trying to find your way out of dire straits, chances are you will make a mistake. This is perfectly fine as long as it isn’t an error due to haste or uncontrolled emotions. Don’t let small errors deter you; just recognize them, acknowledge them and learn from them.
  2. Ask your close relatives/friends for support if you need it. If there is something that you simply can’t get done on your own, that’s what the people closest to you are there for. They will always be there to help you through your toughest trials – be it emotional or logistical. Don’t forget to tap into your most invaluable network if you need to.
  3. 10. When the storm has passed, reflect properly and appreciate the calm. If you’ve gone through a really tough situation and made it through, there is always a strange sense of accomplishment, newfound appreciation and pride for having weathered a storm. Take the time to reflect on this feeling and use it to steady you through the next rough patch – and there will be a next rough patch.

“An acorn is not an oak when it is sprouted. It must go through long summers and fierce winters, and endure all that frost and snow, and thunder, and storms, and side-striking winds can bring, before it is a full grown oak. So a man is not a man when he is created; he is only begun. His manhood must come with years. He who goes through life prosperous, and come to his grave without a wrinkle, is not half a man. Difficulties are God’s errands and trainers, and only through them can one come to fullness of manhood.” – Henry Ward Beecher

  1. 11. It’ll be a great story one day. The wildest and most trying journeys always make the greatest stories. Look forward to telling the tale when all is said and done. And if you’ve been around this site, you know how much I appreciate a good story.

Life is full of strange and extremely difficult situations. But the difference between breaking down and getting stronger is often one of perspective. You’re stronger than you think. The most important thing is to keep your head about you and take appropriate action.


Here’s to making it through the twists and turns,