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:
- Mastery over fear – bravery
- Integrity – choosing a valued response
- Navigation – driving your own behaviour
- Determination. – 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.
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.