C is for courage
“There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. True courage is in facing danger when you are afraid.” The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Courage comes in all shapes and sizes and can be applied to mental challenges like fear and despair or simple tiredness not just ‘brave’ or heroic acts in the face of danger.
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” Mary Anne Radmacher
Courage hinges on an internal, mental state of strength and a determination to face something that seems daunting. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines courage as the ‘mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.’ i.e. stepping out of your comfort zone, feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
The word courage has two main roots, one of Latin origin and the other stems from old French. In Latin, the word ‘cor’ represents inner strength, and in French, the word ‘corage’ means heart or innermost feelings
Courage cannot be defined by a set definition or a certain group of actions. A courageous act does not have to be extravagant in order to be called courageous. Courage is unique to every individual. What one person may do with ease, another may struggle and need courage to help them through. Courage is not always obvious like a dramatic rescue; courage can be shown in simple acts too.
“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” Brené Brown
Courage is a character strength. Strengths are our unique set of core abilities. They are where the root of our talent lies and encompass our natural tendencies.
“Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look.” Marcus Aurelius
The more you understand what you’re naturally good at, the better equipped you are for life and the more confidence you will have to embrace life courageously.
“When we identify and take pride in our strengths, we can open our eyes more clearly to the realities of our current situation and empower ourselves to act and enact change,”
Alexis Conason (clinical psychologist).
In the early 2000s Scientists discovered that there was a common language of 24 character strengths that make up what’s best about our personality. Inner strengths are mostly independent of skills, which are things we learn. Everyone possesses all 24 character strengths but in different degrees, so each person has a truly unique character strengths profile.
“One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.” Maya Angelou
Psychologists Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson divided each character strength under six categories of general human virtue, which are universal across cultures and nations.
Wisdom -Creativity Curiosity, Judgement, Love of Learning, Perspective
Courage - Bravery, Honesty, Perseverance, Zest
Humanity - Kindness, Love, Social Intelligence
Justice -Fairness, Leadership, Teamwork
Temperance - Forgiveness, Humility, Prudence, Self-Regulation
Transcendence - Appreciation of beauty and excellence, Gratitude, Hope, Humour, Spirituality
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela
Bravery can be simply defined as being brave or possessing & displaying courage. fortitude, will or intrepidity. Throughout life we all come across various situations where we have the opportunity to display varying degrees of bravery & determination.
“It takes more courage to reveal insecurities than to hide them, more strength to relate to people than to dominate them, more ‘manhood' to abide by thought-out principles rather than blind reflex. Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in muscles and an immature mind.”
Being brave doesn’t mean being fearless rather it means facing and overcoming whatever is threatening to stop us from moving forward or doing whatever we should or need to do. Being brave doesn’t mean that you don’t fear adversity; it means you have the strength of will to overcome whatever fear you have. It is clear that courage is an emotion but it is also a physical act; i.e. it is the ability to respond positively in what appears to be a negative situation.
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
Courage can be present in many different forms. Some examples of honesty and courage in everyday life include:
the courage to say what you think,
the courage to do what is right,
the courage to live by your values,
the courage to stand up for yourself or others,
the courage to set boundaries,
the courage to accept that some decisions may lead to unpopularity,
the courage to make self-improvements, even if they require physical or mental effort.
“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” J.K. Rowling
Courage means being able to do what is right and virtuous, even if it is difficult to do. Courage allows you to live with integrity.
“Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.” W. Clement Stone
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
Courage is needed to persevere even when there doesn’t seem to be any immediate hope or chance of success.
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time” Thomas A Edison
Perseverance or determination can be described as a firmness of purpose or resoluteness. It means you are aiming towards a firm goal and you don’t waver in your pursuit of achieving it.
“Courage doesn’t happen when you have all the answers. It happens when you are ready to face the questions you have been avoiding your whole life.” Shannon L Alder
Perseverance gives you hope If you focus on the potential benefits ahead and believe that your hard work will pay off, then your determination can give you courage and be a motivating force to help you reach your end goal. When we are determined or demonstrate ‘grit’ it is because we are exhibiting or have had the resilience to push ourselves over, through, around, and sometimes under obstacles. Perseverance is a characteristic that can be developed. It can be described as the engine that moves us toward our goal and resilience is the oil that keeps the engine moving.
“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“I don’t really want to become normal, average, standard. I want merely to gain in strength, in the courage to live out my life more fully, enjoy more, experience more. I want to develop even more original and more unconventional traits” Anaïs Nin
‘Zeal’ is usually a positive word meaning energetic enthusiasm or devotion to a cause, ideal or goal. Enthusiastic people might also be described as having a 'zest for life.'
“It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.”
Other synonyms of zeal are ardor, earnestness, enthusiasm, fervor, and passion. All these words imply an ‘intense emotion compelling action,’ but zest or zeal goes a step further and implies energetic and unflagging pursuit of an aim or cause.
To close, another aspect that I have been reflecting on is that there is a close connection between one’s state of mind, courage and hope (or the lack of them) and the state of immunity of one’s body. When we lose hope and courage, it can have a serious effect on both our physical and our mental health; it is essential therefore that we guard hope courageously and a belief in the future by reflecting on our values and being determined to follow small consistent steps towards our goals.
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.” Anais Nin
Some questions to think about/or discuss below:
What do you wish you had the courage to do?
What's stopping you from being courageous?
If you want to reflect more on this subject, here are some links to get you started: