Courage has been a desirable and valued characteristic throughout time. Courageous, brave, heroic, strong individuals are celebrated, while those who are perceived to lack this quality are viewed as weak, cowardly, timid, fearful…
But is identifying acts of courage that simple? Should we be questioning judgments more – for example, is there more than one form of bravery? What does courage look like in different circumstances? Is all courage good or does it depend on the intention/outcome and moral judgment of individuals?
Examples of courage happen all around us, every day. We rarely stop and think about them unless they happen on a big scale – physical, noble, heroic acts (think of the man dubbed ‘Spiderman’ who scaled a building to save a child hanging from a balcony) in the face of danger are easier to spot.
But how about acts of moral courage? Are these any less valid? Standing up for personal values and rights – in the face of challenge and backlash, speaking the truth – even in difficult circumstances, engaging in prosocial action – despite social risk. Activists, whistle-blowers, children standing up to bullies…
How about acts of psychological courage? Facing inner fears, challenging oneself, stepping out of your comfort zone, opening up emotionally? While these may not involve the risk of physical danger or create social change, they do instigate personal change at many levels.
There are many types of courage.
Courage can enable us to do great things. It can also be used by individuals to do terrible things. A key aspect that unites ‘good’ examples of courage – whether they are physical, moral or psychological – is that they should not seek to cause deliberate harm to others or put ourselves at extreme, unnecessary risk. Before acting we should be assessing our motives and values for doing so.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.Steve Jobs