Sunday Snippet: Rollo May

“The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity.”

The person who is brave is more likely to enter a situation where they are afraid, because they understand the bigger ramifications involved. Martin Luther King, Jr. told us that a coward is the person who asks whether a situation is safe before getting involved. And that’s the key to the quote above: conformity is the safe option. It’s the expected option with more predictable results.

Courage allows you to go against convention and explore areas yet to be explored. It is only when we go against the status quo and push our limits that we can really see what is possible. Staying within the socially accepted norms lends itself to stagnation. That’s conformity. It’s safe, it’s predictable, and it allows you to blend into the crowd.

Rollo May was a man who challenged more of those conventions. He was an American psychologist mostly aligned with humanistic psychology and existentialist philosophy. He is perhaps best known for his book Love And Will, wherein he asserts that the awareness of death is essential to life. That’s the existentialism at play and it lends itself to asking what is the meaning of life (assuming there is any meaning at all).

Should you always challenge authority? Should you always look to the status quo and do the complete opposite? No, not necessarily, but you also have to realize that escaping conformity is where you will find true courage and it is there that you can push the upper limits of your humanity and your impact on this world.