The dictionary definition of courage as per the Oxford English Dictionary is ‘the ability to do something that frightens one’, but is it really that simple? Courage is often portrayed as physical bravery in books and movies which see the hero making a sacrifice for the greater good. However, courage can be more than a physical act. Think of social activists and those speaking out against injustice. They too are displaying courage, albeit a different type of courage. We can also consider entrepreneurs like Walt Disney or Steve Jobs as being courageous people given the financial risks that they took in order to pursue a dream. There are different types of courage ranging from physical strength and endurance to mental stamina, innovation and emotional bravery. Let’s take a look at the various different attributes of courage.
One of the most common displays of courage is when someone chooses to act despite the fact that they feel fear regarding the task or feat in front of them. This is probably what most people think of when they think of courage. Some examples of this type of courage would be firefighters running into a burning building or someone trying skydiving for the first time! Courage in this sense is not about being fearless, but rather it is about triumphing despite being afraid. The same can said of courage in situations where the individual perseveres even in the face of great adversity. Haven’t we all commented on how courageous a Paralympic athlete is for working to overcome their disability and excel in a sport? This is a slightly different take on the idea of physical courage or bravery in that it is not so much that the person is scared, but that they are facing a challenge which a less courageous person might see as insurmountable. Another variation on this is courage which takes the form of facing suffering with dignity and grace. How we react in terrible situations can speak volumes about out character and those who are able to face humiliation, suffering or degradation and still keep their composure could also be deemed to have great courage. A great illustration of this comes from popular culture. In the television show Outlander, there is an important scene where the hero, Jamie Fraser, is given 200 lashes leaving his back permanently disfigured. However, throughout the ordeal he refuses to cry out even although he must be in terrible pain. He bore his suffering with dignity and poise and was therefore behaving in a courageous manner.
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