Unfortunately, I’ve been struggling to keep up with my weekly blog schedule. Last week I felt mentally foggy and couldn’t think clearly — this may have been due to my lack of quality sleep. I’ve been following my daily schedule, laid out in my first blog post, as best I can and the intense exercise has really thrown off my sleep. I am so physically burnt out that I can’t seem to do much durning the day, but at night I can’t shut off my brain. I end up having the most vivid dreams and waking up with sleep paralysis. This week things seem to be getting better.

In an attempt to play catch up, I’ve decided to post a letter I wrote to someone very close to me a while back. We’ll call him Bob. Bob’s mother reached out to me, asking me to write this letter, explaining that Bob seemed lost in life and needing some direction. He was going to a spiritual retreat where he would open the letter.

In last weeks mental fog I thought about this letter I wrote Bob – nothing specific, just wishing someone would write me a letter on what to do with my life. I was feeling quite lost myself — something my friends have made clear is an epidemic for my generation. Thankfully this lack of direction is something I attempted to addressing this letter, which brought me some clarity, Bob (he spoke with me after the retreat), and I hope it will bring some to you as well.

Dear Bob,

Your mother informed me that you were planing on attending this spiritual event, assuming you are reading this indicates that you’ve made it — and, I hope God has shown himself to you, granted that is what you desire. She asked that I write you a letter of encouragement. I am unsure what exactly to say, mainly because we haven’t spoken in a while, and when we do it is of little substance. Though that may be, it matters very little — we share the indelible mark of God branded on our souls, and for that reason alone I should offer words of hope. But, you are a dear friend whom I care deeply for and who’s company I cherished, so I will dig deep in an attempt to write something worthy of your time. Therefore, I will write of courage — the root word of encouragement, and something I find myself laking at time (I suspect this may be the same for you). 

To understand courage, you must first understand yourself. This can be the most frightening aspect of mortality, because understanding who you are forces you to know your vices — and Logos dictates that you’re responsible for transforming them into virtues. This can be the difficult in our era due to its promotion of the wicked and demonization of the just — but, let the fruitfulness of your actions be the indicator as to what your vices may be. It is after expelling your iniquities that you can act on true courage — for a man has as many masters as he has vices, and only after mastering himself is he truly free. It is this freedom that unveils a true understanding of who you are, and from this freedom courage is drawn.

After understanding yourself, you must then understand your conscience. There is a reason why there is no courage in ignorance. There is a reason why the coward dies a thousand deaths, and a hero dies but once. It’s because courage is built on integrity, and integrity lies on the foundations of ones conscience. Understanding yourself goes hand in hand with the formation of your conscience, God’s law written on the hearts of man. Logos determines how to apply these laws, and He does this through reason. Let the rider of reason led his horse of passions by the reins of his will — this (later adopted by western civilization as a whole) is roughly how Aristotle felt man should order himself — living out a virtuous life will produce happiness within (Aristotle wrote about this in his Nicomachean Ethics, later expanded upon in catholic teachings on natural law).

This is why developing a truly free spirit in tandem with a clear conscience is so important to courage — it allows you to know where to stand on something, and it gives to the ability to choose how firm to place your foot. One of the most damning things you can do in todays society is take a hard and fast stance on an issue, given that the culture, at large, views “as long as it’s not hurting anyone” as the premise of morality — this thinking is fundamentally flawed viewed through Aristotelian and christian philosophy. Mans’ passion takes precedent over all else (arguably the most detrimental to ones soul, due to reason’s position within this hierarchy at the bottom). Along this vein, people don’t develop courage because it’s fashionable, on the contrary — courage is often only admired after the fact — they do it because virtue dictates it arise.

In moments I know I need courage, and I feel myself lacking in it, I think back to when I was young and on the man I hope I’d be — then, I do what that man would do. After much pondering on the subject, I found that it is in the innocence of a child freedom and conscience are their purest. This is due to the hopefulness of what the future could be. As christians we know that Jesus is hope, and that is why we are called to be like children.

So, let childhood innocence be the inspiration of your courage. When the darkness creeps in, and despair encroaches toward you, know that through Christ it can be kept at bay and disbanded. For God is that master of history, and it’s never too late in life to change — allowing the Holy Spirit to mend the traumas that restrict you, helping you develop the discipline and fortitude to be the man you wish to be.

I wish you the best Bob. A nun once told me that God only puts us through the pain and trials that He knows we can overcome — so never lose faith. I often find myself reflecting on how Jesus fell 3 times on His way to Calvary – so, if God can fall and get back up, I can too. Also, He had help along the way, so if you ever need to vent don’t hesitate to call. I miss you.

– Matthew