By Neal Lemery
I’ve been reading and thinking about courage lately, which seems to be in scarce supply lately, and much needed in these times. I found some useful definitions.
“Physical courage. This is the courage most people think of first: bravery at the risk of bodily harm or death. It involves developing physical strength, resiliency, and awareness.
“Social courage. This type of courage is also very familiar to most of us as it involves the risk of social embarrassment or exclusion, unpopularity or rejection. It also involves leadership.
“Intellectual courage. This speaks to our willingness to engage with challenging ideas, to question our thinking, and to the risk of making mistakes. It means discerning and telling the truth.
“Moral courage. This involves doing the right thing, particularly when risks involve shame, opposition, or the disapproval of others. Here we enter into ethics and integrity, the resolution to match word and action with values and ideals. It is not about who we claim to be to our children and to others, but who we reveal ourselves to be through our words and actions.
“Emotional courage. This type of courage opens us to feeling the full spectrum of positive emotions, at the risk of encountering the negative ones. It is strongly correlated with happiness.
“Spiritual courage. This fortifies us when we grapple with questions about faith, purpose, and meaning, either in a religious or nonreligious framework.” Lion’s Whiskers http://www.lionswhiskers.com/p/six-types-of-courage.html
Courage comes in many forms and expresses itself in numerous ways. One’s act of courage may not seem courageous to others, but it remains a courageous act. Each type of courage comes into use for different occasions, and different needs.
I think the source of courage comes from deep inside of us. It can spring into action often without any deep analytical thought, and instead, literally rises out of us when the occasion calls for us to be courageous.
Sometimes, when I worry about something, my mind will anticipate and I will analyze how I might respond. I’m being thoughtful and analytical, my brain drawing on past experiences and past “learning”. Old habits and prior learning, and prior conversations with others come into play. Sometimes, it is remembering a story someone told me, or that I read.
More common for me, though, is what I like to think is spontaneous courage. It arises out of the moment, the circumstances, and seems to be impulsive. But, after the crisis, looking back, I realize my courageous act was mostly the product of prior experiences, and the memory of stories I had heard. I often realize that I am more courageous inside of myself than I give myself credit for, that I have some deep values and motivations that I am often not very conscious of. But, that courage is there, inside of me, and is a strong and vital part of my inner self, and arguably, a big part of my soul.
I often look back on an experience and, it is only then that I can see the courage in action, that I did a good thing, and that I acted with courage and with strong moral values in play. At the time of the situation, I wasn’t that insightful, that thoughtful, that aware that the moment required me to be courageous and to act in a morally appropriate manner.
I probably don’t give myself adequate credit for being courageous. I am, I think, deep down, humble an unassuming, and modest about what I can and should do in a situation.
This week, the Capitol guard who diverted the mob from the Senators was also discovered to be the hero in saving another Senator, his actions caught on video and shown to the Senate during the impeachment trial. He didn’t mention his actions to others, and didn’t seek attention and accolades. But, the video spoke for itself, a demonstration of courage and swift action to save another person from harm.
His actions were courage in action, and serve to show him as a hero.
People are courageous in so many ways, and almost always are not recognized for their actions. I think each of us often doesn’t see what we are doing as being courageous acts. But, if we are aware of a person’s situation, the circumstances, the background, we can then take the time to realize that what they are doing is truly courageous. We may not see that, at first. But, if we take the time and are sensitive to a person’s situation, then the courage becomes visible to others.
We can do that with ourselves, seeing our conduct, our interactions, as being courageous acts, brave an often fearless in the moment.
I think it is important to recognize that courage, that bravery, is often alive in ourselves, that we often act with courage, facing our dragons, our self-doubts, our fears, and do great things in spite of our feelings of unworthiness, self-doubt and fear. And, I need to give myself some recognitions that I am often brave and fundamentally a good person.