The convictions of one’s courage

Fictional guest list for a fake dinner

Imagine your ideal dinner party guests, whether living, dead, invented, or mythical. Mine range and change, currently Marie Curie, Superman, Julie PayetteJohn Legend, and Oprah. Only one guest remains constant over decades: David, the shepherd who allegedly defeated giant Goliath and became king.

I admire David, whose Bible stories describe a brave, strategic leader, singer, poet, and dancer. In the outcry over monuments and statues, I realized that means  also admiring David, the unfaithful, immoral sinner.

A pretense about a real-world problem

The controversy about images of flawed men who inflicted harm on others woke me to problems with David’s invitation. It’s a compliment to have the courage of one’s convictions. Have the conviction, find the courage. Courage scrambling for a conviction to latch onto isn’t a compliment. Holding onto a conviction after it’s expiry date isn’t courageous.

I needed balance among courage, conviction, and conflict. Imaginary guest lists are fun, but David’s statutes have generated real conflicts, such as, where his eyes gazed, and where his image is located.

David likely wasn’t as handsome as Michelangelo sculpted him

Conviction + Imposition = Conflict

You won’t care David’s on my guest list until I’m so certain of my convictions that I force him onto yours. My preferred definition of conflict is “an intentional action to achieve the actor’s will over the objection of others.” 1.

When someone’s convinced that one way or opinion is right, and imposes that way or opinion on others, expect pushback.

In the monuments conflict, I add nothing new about ethics, forgiveness, sanctimony, mercy, evil, and compassion. I’m grateful the disagreement led to my uncertainty about David. That’s what I do professionally – ask questions to promote uncertainty so that conflicting parties hear other perspectives, learn, and change.

I want the courage to challenge my convictions, to test their correctness, to entertain uncertainty so I hear other perspectives and learn. Then, I can decide whether I hold the right conviction with courage, or hold courage for the sake of it.

Like mirror images, opinions reflect back to us what we value, how tolerant we are of others’ values, and what triggers us to defend our values if we believe them to be threatened.

If only perfect people are memorialized there will be no memorials

Flawed heroes and a God who makes mistakes populate the book called the Old Testament, a.k.a the Hebrew Bible, a.k.a the Five Books of Moses, a.k.a the Pentateuch. Like most people, I’m a good / bad, useful / helpless, intelligent / hapless, right / wrong mix who, hopefully, improves over time.

I relate to imperfect characters, since information and I are imperfect. Convictions are values based, rooted in beliefs that may be true on incomplete information in the minds of flawed beings. Convictions abound anyway.

The original decisions to memorialize a few men with statues were also values driven. David’s actions filter through my convictions about social or individual benefits. If I value benefits to society, David stays on my guest list. If I value individuals more, David’s off. I’ll then provide justification to cover that it’s my values deciding.

Values update as information becomes more perfect.

So, I question and reflect on my convictions, until I’m more certain than not, that my convictions support my courage.

1.  Rex, John. (1981, London and New York, Longman), Social Conflict: a conceptual and theoretical analysis



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