The second virtue of strength is courage – But what is courage? Is it John McClane hunting down bad guys? It is Rambo taking out a town, because they drew first blood? King Arthur, the knights of the round table and Camelot? Is it the Cowardly Lion facing the Wicked Witch of the West? Yes those were all courageous moments in cinematic history, but is that all there is to courage? As it turns out, there are several other attributes to courage, it might not always be in the movies, television or make the news, but they are important – they are courage – they are strength.
According to Dr. Melanie Greenberg of Psychology Today and lionswhiskers.com, there are six types of courage, they are: Physical – feeling fear yet choosing to act, Emotional – following your heart, Social – Persevering in the face of adversity, Moral – Standing up for what is right, Intellectual – expanding your horizons, and Spiritual – Facing suffering with dignity or faith.
We are going to look at these one at a time:
“My father cared very much about courage, physical courage as well. He despised those who didn’t have it. But he never said to me, ‘I want you to be courageous.’ he just smiled with pride every time I did something difficult or won a race with the boys.”Indira Gandhi
Walking into a dark street, keys in hand and ready to face whatever might be lurking in the dark. Physical courage keeps us from running away, it is the steady hand that pushes us through our fear and carries us to the other side of the situation that caused us to have fear in the first place.
Physical courage is also the most primal. It is the fight of our fight or flight response. When we are in a fight/flight response, our body feels stress, then our body releases hormones and stimulates our adrenal glands to release adrenaline – The person feels their heart start to race, their breathing gets more rapid. This is called the primal response, because it comes from our basal ganglia or better known as the reptilian brain.
You see the basal ganglia is part of your limbic system, and so is your amygdala which tells the hypothalamus to get the adrenal glands to give you a boost of adrenaline – this way you can either fight to save your life, or run like hell.
“Courage is not the absence of fear. Only fools have no fear. Rather, courage is the intellectual mastery of fear by understanding the true risks and opportunities of the situation and keeping those things in balance.”Julian Assange
The truth will set you free. The courage to tell the truth can cause a pit in your stomach. Unfortunately, telling the truth can feel like we are exposing our belly as it were, and leaving ourselves vulnerable. But not only is vulnerability and honesty part of Emotional Courage, but also engaging in both positive and negative emotions.
You need to follow your heart. Emotional Courage can be displayed by confronting a family member or friend about something that is difficult to address. Such as: Infidelity, abuse or addiction. It is hard to approach someone about these issues, but if you are Emotionally Courageous – you will be able to step up.
“I wanted you to see what courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it though no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, Warner Books paperback edition 1982, p115
What Atticus is talking about here, in this well read book, is the social courage of Mrs. Dubose, this is “real” courage to Atticus. Mrs. Dubose faced the world sick and alone at an old age, she also fought off addiction to die free from morphine. She was courageous in Atticus’ eyes, because she went against what society deemed necessary to alleviate her pain. She didn’t want to die hooked on drugs – even though it would have made her life easier.
You see Social Courage is not looking for approval from those around you, and following what the crowd says. If Mrs. Dubose followed what everyone else felt was alright, she would have died addicted to morphine, but because she didn’t allow that, she was regarded as a hero by Atticus.
Dr. Martin Luther King was also a socially and morally courageous man. Because he saw that racial inequality was rampant. He spoke out and led the Civil Rights Movement until the day of his death. He stepped out and was vocal to correct this injustice.
“It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.”Mark Twain
Moral Courage is almost a topic all on its own. It deals with morality and the courage to wield that morality for good. There are people that act moral, but underneath they lack the moral fortitude of a dung beetle. Moral Courage takes the road of looking out for the good of society and ethics without regards to what consequences it might bring.
Moral courage may be described as Intrepid integrity, it refuses to compromise conscience for personal gain or for decisions of convenience.
Once again I am looking straight at Dr. King. He understood what it took to be courageous. he was looking out for what society needed. 52 years later, we still have inequality in our nation. there is still a us/them mentality in our country.
We still favor segregation and lifting up one race over another. We still are looking at keeping one race over the other. I don’t care who it is – nobody is more important than another – I don’t care what the color of their skin is – because we are all made in God’s image. I believe Dr. King would be shaking his head in disgust. That will be a topic for another post.
“A courageous person not only fears rightly, but also is confident about the right things, in the right way and at the right time.”Aristotle
“Intellectual courage is the quality that allows one to believe in one’s judgement in the face of dissapointment and widespread skepticism. Intellectual courage is even rarer than physical courage”John Charles Polanyi
There is a fear when we are confronted with ideals that do not match with our own. I don’t care who you are or how you were raised, if someone has different ideals than you, you tend to reject them or at least the new ideas give you pause. When our core beliefs are challenged, sometimes we want to take up the sword and shield and fight against those beliefs.
I have to admit, I was and sometimes am a sword wielding shield carrying fanatic, following a man with blue paint on his face into battle (Braveheart reference). Seriously, sometimes we let rhetoric and ideals cloud our judgement when it comes to our belief systems.
If we “side” with someone with a different opinion and belief system, we fear the rejection of those with the same belief as ours. Because we congregate in like minded communities where people without our beliefs are kept at arm’s length.
When I was a teenager, being gay was worse then death. AIDS had just come onto the scene, and people were dying from the disease, and it was blamed on homosexuals. If you were gay, you were not only made fun of, but you were ostroscized. I am not gay, guys do nothing for me, but because I was of slight build and had no interest in sports, but I loved the theater and I was a classical muscian; I was labeled as gay.
Being a Christian, I believed homosexuality was wrong… Please note I said believed – as in the past tense. You see what Christians seem to forget is John 3:17, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” and 1 Timothy 1:15, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.” So if Christ – The Son of the Living God – will not condemn, why do I have the right?
You see, making the statement above, in a conservitive Christian setting will almost get me burned at the stake, but it takes Intellectual Courage to speak out and say that I don’t have the right to judge, because I, like the Apostle Paul, am the worst sinner.
Which leads me to the last type of courage: Spiritual Courage. Spiritual Courage has qualities that reach deep down into our spirit. Qualities such as: empathy, love, justice, a desire to preserve beauty in all its forms, creativity, ethics and morality Reaching out to others, offering a helping hand and being generous with time and resources.
There are times when we are faced with situations that incite hate, blaming others and violence. We have seen such actions in the past year. We have seen hate being incited, where the media has fueled the fire of hate and violence. Where Spiritual Courage comes in is where we take that information and actions we see and we stand against it. We have the courage to stand up to the hate mongers of our society.
Yes Spiritual Courage does also mean that we hold true to our core beliefs in the midst of trials and tribulations. That even if it is unpopular, we unabashedly stand up for our beliefs. People have been persecuted or put to death for their Spiritual Courage, I believe they have gained more than they have lost.
“One has to beckon the spiritual warrior inside oneself whenever it is deemed necessary for the task at hand. Courage is the fuel. Healing is the direction. Forgivenessis the balm. Love is the atmosphere Divine.”Donna Goddard, The Love of Devotion
Courage is more than just killing bad guys, more than just saving the girl and riding off into the sunset. Courage is a multi-faceted gem. It is difficult, uncomfortable, cringeworthy but in the end it is worth it. To have strength, you must have courage in all of its beautiful and wonderfulness. It is scary at times but only a fool is not afraid.