What was the one thing that the lion in the Wizard of Oz didn’t have? Courage. What did he receive from the Wizard at the end? A medal. Somebody has to explain to me what one has to do with the other. I don’t have any medals, I haven’t fought in any wars, nor have I donated a kidney to a sibling. But I did learn something about courage once, in what seems like a long, long time ago in a Bank far, far away.
I was working as a loan processor for a mortgage company. It was an ok job. I collected documents for people applying for loans and then would hand them all in to the underwriter. Our underwriters would either say everything is ok, or complain about all of the missing pieces of paper. Then we would start all over. I worked with a curious breed of people. They are called Loan Officers. This title leads to certain misconceptions. They don’t process or approve any loans. And they aren’t gentlemen. Not even the ladies. They are sales people. They are the ones who go out and beg / borrow / and steal business. Their job is to go to Real Estate agents, schmooze them and get them to recommend customers to our mortgage company. They then take the application, gently as if it were a new born baby, carefully guide it through the approval process, smooth out some of the rough edges and present it clean and beautiful to the Real Estate agent who closes the deal. You see a mortgage application isn’t really a loan to a Realtor. It is a commission that the Realtor hands over to the Loan Officer for a short time while it gesticulates and then is born as a fat commission check at the closing. The Loan Officer also gets a little piece of the action; a portion of the points we pay goes to them.
As you can see, the relationship between Loan Officer and Real Estate Agent is a very close one. If a Realtor no longer likes the Loan Officer, that individual gets no more business. If a Loan Officer messes up a deal and subsequently takes away that Realtor’s commission (which in their mind was already his/hers) then that evil Loan Officer will definitely get no more business. Get the picture? Therefore there is a lot of pressure on the Loan Officers to make sure that every loan gets approved so that they don’t lose any future business. A lot of pressure!
And this leads to my little story about courage. I worked with a Loan Officer who brought in a lot of business. The top producing salesman in the office. He came to me one day to talk about a customer. I had learned from a phone call to the customer’s accountant that the customer sold his business and was no longer employed. This is a problem when one applies for a loan. It said on his application that he was working. I did what I was supposed to do and wrote the conversation down. I told the Loan Officer that we had hit a snag. He told me to forget the conversation and throw the paper away. He said that we were in business to close loans and if we didn’t none of us would have a job. He then suggested that I cooperate or else.
At the time I was married, had a small child, and a house with a pretty big mortgage payment. Hinting that I would lose my job over this was a good way to scare the stuffing out of me. I wouldn’t budge though. I handed the loan in to the underwriter with the conversation included and it was turned down. And then I waited for the fallout. Every Monday I woke up with my stomach in knots because companies fire people on Monday’s. The idea is that the person can start the new job search right away instead of waiting through the weekend. Isn’t that special? I was nervous for the next few weeks, but when nothing happened I started to calm down. I guess it was all a bluff? Who knows?
I think about my feelings during that little episode and came up with a few ideas. Courage has nothing to do with being fearless. I have heard many stories of Medal of Honor winners who said they were scared to death when they committed acts of bravery. Courage is the willingness to dig your heals in and stand up for what you believe in. Courage is doing what you know to be the right actions. Courage is being willing to sacrifice yourself for your principals or for the sake of someone else. It is often a frightening experience. But a courageous person takes action despite the fear.
I believe that we all face difficult decisions in our lives which cause us to face decisions of courage. They may not win us medals, but they do have the effect of building up our character. Our brave decisions to support righteous actions among our fellows help us become people of strength and wisdom.