Courage is a character trait that underpins all others. Courage is at the testing point of every other worthwhile value – love, kindness, fairness, forgiveness, hope, authenticity, reliability, determination, achievement. To make any of these happen, you need courage.

There are four components of courage:

  1. Mastery over fear – bravery
  2. Integrity – choosing a valued response
  3. Navigation – driving your own behaviour
  4. Determination.Β  – perseverance despite setbacks or obstacles

Your MIND controls courage with careful thought, reflection, and consideration. It grows stronger in time, setting it apart from bravery on its own which can be impulsive.

Mastery over fear is facing your fear, looking it in the eye, admitting ‘this is what I fear’ and resolving to conquer it.

Integrity: Choosing a valued response

Courage can be passive or active.

Passive courage is when you have a situation thrown at you and you simply have to deal with it. Sink or swim. There tends to be only one aim – survival. Nevertheless one can choose to survive with grace and dignity, or with bitterness and resentment. Even though the situation may be out of your control, your response is always within your control. In a fearful situation, it takes courage to choose a valued response aligned to your values.

Active courage is a purposeful decision to change a situation. It may be to make an intolerable situation bearable; a good situation better; or a decision to grow rather than stagnate.

Navigation: Driving your own behaviour

This is sometimes phrased “action”. I have chosen to use the term “behaviour” rather than “action” because I believe that sometimes “no action” can still be a choice aligned to your values. For example, choosing to refrain from revenge or retaliation after a wrong-doing takes much strength, even though it is seemingly doing nothing. Conversely standing up to someone or something more powerful than yourself also takes courage. The first example is inaction, the second is action; yet both are behaviours aligned to a chosen response aligned to values. The key factor is taking control and moving forward on your choice.


The last component of courage is a determination to achieve, complete a task, or keep going despite setbacks and obstacles. The key word is ‘or’. It can be as courageous to keep going in a seemingly hopeless situation (such as overcoming a physical disability) as to drive forward to successful completion a worthwhile project.

My situation:

Here are some of my fears:

  • Fear of loss: companionship, stability, identity, trust, dreams, financial security
  • Fear of uncomfortable feelings: sadness, anger, frustration, resentment
  • Fear of confrontation
  • Fear of losing control of my life
  • Fear of loss of my authentic self
  • Fear of someone or something more powerful than myself
  • Fear of mistrusting myself and my own abilities
  • Fear of consequences: shame, humiliation, embarrassment, criticism
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of success
  • Fear of change
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear to strive

Since my world turned upside down, I feel I have “mastered” many of my fears although I certainly have not conquered them all. I feel I have shown passive courage to my life situation and responded with behaviours aligned to my values.

Do I also have active courage? Am I able to change my life and take it in a different direction? Is this type of courage the same thing as overcoming an adversity?

Here is what I believe to be a key stumbling block. I was in deep pain when my husband left me. Gradually I learned to survive. I faced that pain and conquered it. I have learned to adapt and cope with the discomfort that remains. I know I can keep surviving at this level of discomfort and continue to show courage in doing so. What makes me fear to strive to the next level is the anticipation of what I may or may not suffer in the process of striving.

What I mean by that is; have I come to accept a low-grade level of discomfort as my “normal” that I can cope with? Am I afraid to step out of that comfort zone, even though that comfort zone is actually somewhat uncomfortable?


Song:Katy Perry:Roar. Two years after being ‘divorced’ by text message.

33 thoughts on “Courage

  1. Elizabeth, I love how you broke down the four components of courage and how you were willing to share your fears. Sometimes, courage definitely roars, and sometimes, it is but a whisper. Always know that you are courageous, and it is good to hear you begin to roar!

  2. I think you’ve shown amazing courage and resilience. I’m not quite sure I understand what you mean by the next level. Are you talking about actively changing your life in a different direction? And, do you really want to? (Sometimes it isn’t a lack of courage that prevents us from big changes, or complacency, but rather a kind of contentment….)

    And sometimes we just need a little more time before we’re ready for another big change.

    • One of my problems in cutting down posts to 700 words, some of the vital details get left out!
      i was referring to change, BIG changes – plural (selling my home, moving away, starting a new career). So this isn’t getting over an adversity as such (although the reason I want to do this is the consequence of that adversity) but making a move to a better life for me as it will be MY life as opposed to making the best of what was OUR life gone sour.
      You are correct… a breathing space is needed.

      • I understand, Elizabeth, BIG Changes require some kind of courage.
        I don’t know what I would do if I were a single woman. If it happened to me now, I’d be a very elderly single woman. I have a feeling, I would probably go for some changes like moving away etc., which would require courage. Maybe not so much courage but determination to make up my mind and stick to it.

      • It is interesting you say that you would move away as when my father died my mother stayed in the family home for about 18 years. However, I feel that she started to blossom when she finally had a place of her own.

      • As someone who has repeatedly made BIG changes, speaking from experience, it’s a whole lot easier if you plan them well ahead, and don’t do too many changes all at once, unless you feel you must. Every change is exciting, but also stressful.

        It’s sounds to me like you’ve begun the planning process for at least some of these big changes.

      • Thanks for the encouragement on that and I really appreciate it coming from you whom I admire. That is, that the changes need to be well thought out and gradual ie: one at a time.
        I sometimes feel pressured ‘hurry up…hurry up’; and it great to have support from someone who understands it is something that is not possible to rush.

      • I think our age has something to do with the pressure. We’re aware that we aren’t thirty years old, that there is a limit to the time we have, to accomplish all we’d like to do.

        I find it very tricky to be patient in the face of that knowledge, meaning, I battle with my impatience. I am only able to find patience when I hold “reasonableness” and “peace/tranquility” as conscious values. I highly desire that my days, every one of them, be “reasonably tranquil.” And that’s more important to me than “achieving/accomplishing goals.” I work toward the goals, but the process, the quality of the journey, is more important than a speedy arrival at the destination.

        Because after all, we aren’t assured of any tomorrows. Only the present moment is ours to live.

        I admire you, too. You help me clarify and articulate my thinking, and you’re an example to me of courage and fortitude.

      • This comment has helped me a lot this week …. holding “reasonableness” and “peace/tranquility” as conscious values. Even though I consider them my values and goals and have even written them down, they sometimes get forgotten on difficult days. To hold onto them even during the storms is certainly a great aim.

      • I am not so sure I would like to have the place to myself!
        What I do know is that I would rather not have to move to a nursing home. I would like to have at least one room to myself! This would then be a kind of hostel type of accommodation. I wonder for how long I could last in our three bedroom home all by myself.

      • My 87 year old mother moved to her two bedroom unit when she was 65. She thought she should move to a place that would be OK for her in her elderly years. It is just right for her now but for twenty years it was far too small. Being on her own she became engrossed in many hobbies and projects and could have done with much more space to spread out. πŸ™‚

  3. I have no doubt that you will do what is best for you when you are ready. Maybe this uncomfortableness is how the ‘nudge’ begins. No matter what you do or how you respond, it is your decision to make and the courage will be there either way.
    Diana xo

    • I think my list is growing!
      (either that or I am simply more prepared now to admit to them).
      Wishing you the best, I stopped by your blog and will check it out in depth soon.

  4. Love the song and video! First time seeing/hearing it. πŸ™‚

    We share a number of the fears you listed, Elizabeth. I’m guessing only introverts like us understand the fear of success thing: it would take us outside our comfort zones, even if that would ultimately be an improvement. Strange, isn’t it?

  5. Great post Elizabeth. I suspect courage may be one of my strengths today after going through two marriage break-ups. If we have courage we can face almost anything. I love the way you have thought through what has happened in your life πŸ™‚

    • It is a testing time and you certainly have courage. I cannot see me ever contemplating another relationship. That is definitely something that I have put in the too hard basket. You come across calm to me and to have survived two break-ups would have taken much strength and fortitude.

  6. Elizabeth, the way you break down the components of courage is excellent. You wrote especially well about Integrity: Choosing a valued response. Very well done.
    In my life, I’ve found several kinds of courage: the active, the spiritual, and the waiting and ready.

    • I am in the midst of the ‘waiting’ courage as I wade through this never-ending divorce process.
      When you say spiritual are you referring to religion or an inner spirit of self?

  7. Pingback: Patience and perseverence while in the prison-like process of divorce | Almost Spring

  8. I think that this post was an outstanding explanation of courage! There are many ways to show it, you encompassed and embraced them. The song, just as I had my special song that cheered me up, was a good example of lifting your spirits! You are very brave, have been showing character in your approaches. I continue to applaud your progress! Smiles, Robin

  9. Pingback: My life in transition # 3 – Resistance | Almost Spring

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