Hmmm – sounds like something you might add to your breakfast cereal, doesn't it? The type of thing that has to be smothered with seasonal fresh fruit, yoghurt and a drizzle of honey before it is even remotely palatable and, even then, is vaguely reminiscent of eating carpet tiles. But it's good for you, isn't it!
Some people call it having spine. Some call it grit. Some call it courage. But it's not the courage to step out of an aeroplane with just a backpack containing several metres of silk and technological hope. This is a different type of courage.
All of us face unpleasant tasks. Anyone who has cared for a young child, an elderly person, an invalid, a sick animal, becomes used to those duties connected with incontinence and gastric instability. After a while one becomes inured.
Then there are unpleasant tasks which involve inflicting pain on others. I remember a friend sitting at my kitchen table weeping. He had, that day, made two people redundant. But he had done it with compassion and honesty.
I heard a while back that some people working for a large company had received notification of their redundancies by text. There was public outrage at this; I think, quite rightly. "They didn't even have the decency to tell them face to face!" was the opinion.
Because it takes courage to deliver bad news face to face. Unless, of course, one is a sadist.
"Oh Mary, I have to do a horrible thing!" a friend texted a few days ago. I have no idea what it was he had to do. Given his line of work, I know I cannot ask.
"Then don't think about it," I texted back. "Just do it. Then move on. Don't dwell on it."
And that's the trick, I think. Like the old Nike slogan, "Just do it." But don't underestimate it, or yourself.
Because it takes courage to visit the dying. It takes courage to visit the bereaved and betrayed. It takes courage to visit a friend who is behind bars. Especially if he is rightly behind those bars.
More than this, it takes courage to endure the unendurable over time; to nurse day by day by day, an ungrateful patient, knowing only death will bring release. It takes spine to do a stressful and uncongenial job every day to the best of your ability. It takes every bit of grit you've got to stay in a painful family situation providing love and stability for your children.
"When the going gets tough, the tough get going," Billy Ocean sang. And, for some things requiring physical courage, I can quite see he's right. I see my friend who does Mudathons actually relishing the challenge.
Faced with moral challenges, I think that when the going gets tough, then the tough just tough it out.
And damn well force ourselves to eat those carpet tiles! Because it's the right thing to do.
A Moodscope member.
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