Courage & Renewal Approach

The Courage & Renewal approach is distinguished by principles and practices intended to create supportive communities of reflection and belonging that help people move towards personal and societal wholeness.

The ways in which wholeness and division show up within us personally and between us societally are inextricably linked. One of the tensions we hold in our work is the reality that, even as we choose to create spaces that invite the soul and nurture wholeness and relational trust, the forces that push us toward the divided life are always present.

Across the world, billions of people live in communities with deeply entrenched legacies of violence, colonialism, and supremacist ideologies. Indeed, as Parker J. Palmer writes, “…violence is woven into the very fabric of our collective existence.” One result of these harmful and ongoing legacies is that we, as active members of these communities, have been conditioned to value certain aspects of human experience and expression over others, creating false hierarchies of humanity and sowing seeds of personal and societal division.

Such divisive forces cultivate myriad forms of othering, marginalization, and oppression, including racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism, classism, religious prejudice, ageism, and nationalism. Whether intentionally or unintentionally – conscious or unconscious – the dynamics of power, privilege, bias, internalized oppression and superiority that are fostered in our societies show up inside of us and around us at every level of our lives.

The Courage & Renewal approach helps us actively and intentionally choose to nurture ways of being with ourselves and one another that move against the violent, oppressive forces that create personal and societal division. Instead, we choose to embody core values and practices that move us towards personal and societal wholeness, embracing the genuine within us, and honoring the inherent worth and dignity of every being. These are not choices we make just once, but ones that must be made time and again – for ourselves and our community.

Core values

We choose


Living and working with integrity requires us to develop greater congruence between our inner and outer selves, to live less divided lives. To move towards such wholeness we must become more self-aware and accepting of our gifts and strengths as well as our shadows and limits.

We choose


When we “show up” as whole people and act authentically, those with whom we live and work are more willing to trust us in relationship and leadership. This can lead to transformed workplaces and organizations.

We choose


Diversity is a deeply valued source of strength, richness, and wisdom for us and for the communities in which we live and work. The capacity to welcome and make space for diverse voices and multiple perspectives is critical to the creation of circles of trust, and to the healing and wholeness needed in our world.

We choose


As we do “inner work,” we are not simply focusing inwardly on ourselves. Rather, we become more aware of the fabric of our connectedness with others in our families, workplaces, and communities. This results in an ongoing sense of responsibility and stewardship of the people and concerns that most matter to us.

We choose


For people whose vocation is serving others, courage is needed to persevere and be “whole-hearted” in the often overwhelming circumstances in which we are trying to make a difference—whether that be in the life of a child, patient, congregation, or community.

We choose


Our work is grounded in love, by which we mean the capacity to extend ourselves for the sake of another person’s growth. Our work in community stretches us to understand, respect, and support each other, teaching us why learning to love is one of the most demanding disciplines we can choose.

We choose


Hope is believing and acting on our finest and most dearly held dreams, persisting even when the odds are against them. In the midst of the despair and brokenheartedness experienced by so many in our world today, our work engenders hope for people to live purposeful lives, do meaningful work, and make contributions to succeeding generations.

We choose


Just as we experience nature’s cycle of renewal through the seasons, so we experience natural cycles of engagement and withdrawal, love and loss, creativity and despair in our personal lives and work. When we take time to slow down, quiet ourselves and reflect, to renew ourselves, and recall our commitments, important changes can happen within us and around us. As we are renewed, we in turn can contribute to the renewal of our professions, workplaces, communities, and ecosystems.

One of the gifts we are given in a circle of trust is a chance to see how abnormal violence is. Here, under conditions that evoke “the better angels of our nature,” we experience our innate capacity to honor, not violate, the identity and integrity of others. And we witness the remarkable things that can happen — within us, between us, and beyond us — as we learn to relate to each other that way.

Parker J. Palmer


Courage & Renewal Touchstones for Creating Trustworthy Space

Facilitators of Courage & Renewal programs use these Touchstones to define clear boundaries in a Circle of Trust retreat, the kinds of boundaries that create trustworthy space for the soul. While these Touchstones define how we relate in a retreat, they can be adapted to support any relationship, workplace, community, or other group where we want to honor the integrity of the individual and build relational trust.


Principles of the Courage & Renewal Approach

Seven principles speak to fundamental truths that undergird the Courage & Renewal approach and inform the Touchstones. Each is an echo of deep knowing long found in traditions and cultures that honor the human spirit and the integrity of the natural world. Perceiving these truths about ourselves, one another, and the world around us, helps equip and sustain us on the journey to an undivided life.


Practices of the Courage & Renewal Approach

Through our approach, we practice ways of being with ourselves and in community that invite the soul, shifting what is possible within us and between us. While these ways of being are always available to us, practicing them in trustworthy communities helps strengthen our capacity to choose and use them. Bringing these practices in our homes, workplaces, and communities can transform them, in ways that are more life-giving for all living things.


The movement model of social change: the principles and practices at work in the world

The work of the Center for Courage & Renewal and the Courage & Renewal® approach is informed by a movement model of social change. Every social movement, small and large, that has made the world a more just and hospitable place has been animated by active respect for human identity and integrity. Typically, these movements have unfolded in four stages:

  • 01

    Individuals make the decision to stop leading “divided lives” and conspiring in their own diminishment.


    These people discover each other and form communities for mutual support to help sustain that decision.

  • 03

    Empowered by community, they go public with their values and visions.


    Movements develop — and become — alternative reward systems, thus weakening the inhumane sanctions that are the basis of every harmful institution’s power.

How can a Circle of Trust help you?

What happens in a Circle of Trust — grounded in honoring the identity and integrity of each participant — flows out into the world as an authentic source of personal and societal healing and a power for positive social change. Participants in a Circle of Trust return to their homes, workplaces, and communities, taking two important resources with them:

  1. Greater access to the inner teacher and a new depth of self-knowledge, often resulting in a clearer sense of guidance for their personal and professional lives and a resolve to live closer to their core commitments.
  2. Principles and practices from the Courage & Renewal approach that can be applied to their daily lives in ways that benefit themselves and the people, places, and causes they care about.

As a result of participating in circles of trust people report:

  • a stronger sense of purpose and integrity
  • expanded capacity to be fully present to others in ways that affirm and heal
  • increased skill in asking the honest, open questions that help others uncover their own inner wisdom
  • greater confidence to seek or create communities of support
  • increased understanding, appreciation, and respect for human differences, based in deeper awareness of the identity and integrity of ourselves and others
  • greater capacity to build the relational trust vital to healthy relationships, workplaces, and communities
  • more courage to live authentically
  • renewed passion for their work or vocation
  • a deeper commitment to leadership and service to others

Interested in Learning More?

Register for Our Next Foundations Program

In this online program you’ll explore how the values, touchstones, principles, and practices of the Courage & Renewal approach, when taken together, create trustworthy spaces to explore questions of meaning and how to live authentically with integrity and courage.