Courage is a mindset


“Courage is found in unlikely places.”
                                                       J.R.R. Tolkien

Throughout history courage has been considered a vital attribute or virtue in many circles.  It’s been written about by  great philosophers and been a requirement of adherents to various traditions including those following the Samauri Bushido Code and the Knightly code of Chivalry.  It is a key virtue in almost every military tradition;  eastern or western, present day or in the past.  But what is this thing called courage? What place does it have in society today? What does it mean to be courageous in everyday life?

When I think about courage I don’t instantly think of those who go out to achieve great feats of strength or daring or to conquer world records.  That sort of courage, that risk taking sort of courage isn’t where I go first.  Don’t get me wrong, I definitely appreciate the intrepidness of thrill seekers and the fortitude it takes to conquer mind and body while surmounting physical hurdles, be they mountains, giant waves, marathons, ocean crossings.  When I think of courage I think of the Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Emmeline Pankhurst, Aung SanSuu Kyi type of courage. Despite all the meanings and interpretations of courage my immediate definition of courage is that which describes those who sacrifice their own sense of comfort or freedom to stand up for principles they hold dear, for principles they believe are a basic human right.  That sort of courage captivates me.  It’s the sort of courage we see played out in many popular novels, and plays and movies.  We all love a hero.  Ethics scholar Scott LaBarge believes we define our ideals on the heroes we choose and as a result, our ideals define us.  But what does that mean? For me? Today?

I wouldn’t consider myself self-sacrificing.  I don’t play on a large scale; locally or internationally.  I’m certainly not an intrepid adventurer or world record beater. Am I then devoid of courage? Is the average person today without courage? I think not. Perhaps then this thing called courage can take many forms. Perhaps there are degrees of courage. Perhaps courage  can be  subtle and understated. What do you think?

Wouldn’t it be marvellous to collect stories of courage, an anthology of everyday courage of the men and women we know? Whose story would you share?