Developing courage and conviction in a world of appearances

Developing courage and conviction in a world of appearances

Both the personal and professional world incentivizes the management of perceptions and appearances. We filter our social media profiles to hide our blemishes, curate our highlight reels (are they even “real”?), and bloat our resumes and CVs. The Enron scandal showed how the company abused mark-to-market accounting and the use of shell companies to appear very strong in terms of its financial standing. Even in religious practices, we represent hypocrisy through the Pharisees who appear to be praying, but are just putting on a show.

Done with carelessness and malice, this breeds inauthenticity, or dare I say, bullshit. In a way, a person who does not want to play this game would choose to be silent. It feels too risky to voice out opinions and face judgement, or feel like imposters, with the sense that one is no different from others willing and deliberately performing BS.

The gospel provides some hints: we need to take courage. And this emanates from our authentic journey, self-examination, and discernment of what we know as good, and we’re willing to take accountability for our words and actions.

I vividly remember my grade school years – I was a very shy, awkward, and introverted chubby boy. I felt insecure when I am selected to compete in debates or in declamation contests – I could only imagine the ridicule I would receive if I fail. But… what’s the big deal with failure?

I recall in high school, I was supposed to recite our school creed, and I experienced mental block – I choked in front of the whole campus, and our principal then helped me by reciting loudly what I forgot.

I recall a moment where I had to perform basketball dribbling moves in a contest (and I’m not great at it!) and fumbled the ball on stage.

At those moments, I felt like the end of the world. Nakakahiya! But fast forward now, did it really mean anything? Was I less of a man for failing to perform or choking in those moments?

I recall asking one of my mentors why he would always speak up and contribute to any forum he is in. What he mentioned struck me. It was something along the lines of: if we claim to be educators or intellectuals, it is our responsibility to make sure that the group is better off with our presence and ideas than it would be without us. So we have to speak up.

And extending that insight, the courage to speak up without BS can only come from preparation and paying attention to what we read or what others say. It’s not about being perfect but painstakingly going through that process of experiencing, insighting, judging, and decision-making.

If the Primary Insight or the Wisdom Incarnate has conquered the world, then we, His followers, are empowered to take courage, to courageously lean into authentic reflections and actions. If we fail, there is an infinite number of times we can iterate and try again, as long as what we’re aiming for is something we have discerned to be a truly good goal.

John 16:29-33. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world


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