man walking beside graffiti wall, Courage

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Courage is often regarded as one of the most important virtues in human life. It enables us to face our fears, overcome our challenges, and pursue our goals. But courage is not only a means to an end; it is also an end in itself. In this article, we will explore how courage can be seen as an aspirational quality for self transcendence, that is, the ability to go beyond our ordinary limits and realize our full potential. We will examine the psychological, philosophical, and spiritual dimensions of courage, and how it can help us grow as individuals and contribute to the common good.

What is courage?
Courage and self-transcendence

What is courage? This is a question that has been debated by philosophers, psychologists, and ordinary people for centuries. Courage is not a simple concept that can be easily defined or measured. It is a complex and multidimensional phenomenon that involves cognitive, emotional, behavioural, and moral aspects. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to act despite fear. Courage is not a trait that one either has or does not have, but a skill that can be developed and practised. It is not a fixed state, but a dynamic process that depends on the situation and the person.

Courage can be manifested in different ways and for different purposes. Some examples of courage are: standing up for one’s beliefs or values, facing a difficult challenge or adversity, overcoming a personal weakness or limitation, protecting someone else from harm, trying something new or unfamiliar, expressing one’s feelings or opinions honestly, admitting one’s mistakes or failures, and pursuing one’s dreams or goals. Courage can also take different forms, such as physical courage, moral courage, social courage, emotional courage, intellectual courage, and spiritual courage.

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Courage is important for personal growth and well-being. It helps us to overcome our fears and doubts, to expand our horizons and potentials, to cope with stress and uncertainty, to assert our identity and autonomy, to develop our character and integrity, to enhance our relationships and communication, to contribute to society and humanity, and to find meaning and fulfilment in life. Courage is not something that we are born with or given by others. It is something that we choose to cultivate and exercise every day.

Benefits of courage

Courage is the ability to face fear, danger, or difficulty with confidence and determination. Courage can help us overcome challenges, achieve our goals, and grow as individuals. Some of the benefits of courage are:

  • It can boost our self-esteem and self-confidence. When we act courageously, we prove to ourselves and others that we are capable and competent. We also gain respect and admiration from others who recognize our courage.
  • It can enhance our creativity and innovation. When we are courageous, we are willing to take risks, try new things, and explore new possibilities. We also learn from our failures and mistakes, which can lead to new insights and solutions.
  • It can foster our resilience and perseverance. When we are courageous, we can cope with stress, adversity, and uncertainty. We also develop a positive attitude and a growth mindset, which can help us overcome obstacles and bounce back from setbacks.
  • It can strengthen our relationships and social skills. When we are courageous, we can express ourselves authentically, communicate effectively, and assert our needs and boundaries. We also show empathy and compassion to others who are facing difficulties or need support.
  • It can inspire us and others to make a positive difference in the world. When we are courageous, we are motivated to pursue our passions and purposes, and to stand up for what we believe in. We also influence others to follow our example and join our cause.

By cultivating courage in ourselves and others, we can enjoy many benefits that can enrich our lives and society.

Challenges of courage

Courage comes with its own challenges that can hinder or prevent its expression. Some of these challenges are:

  • Fear of failure: The possibility of making mistakes, facing criticism, or losing something valuable can discourage people from taking risks or pursuing their goals. Also, fear of failure can lead to perfectionism, procrastination, or avoidance of feedback.
  • Fear of rejection: The desire to belong and be accepted by others can make people conform to social norms or expectations, even if they conflict with their own values or interests. Furthermore, fear of rejection can make people reluctant to express their opinions, emotions, or needs, or to ask for help or support.
  • Fear of change: The uncertainty and unpredictability of change can make people cling to familiar routines, habits, or situations, even if they are unsatisfying or harmful. Furthermore, fear of change can also make people resist new opportunities, perspectives, or experiences that could enrich their lives.
  • Fear of the unknown: The lack of information or knowledge about a situation can make people feel anxious, confused, or overwhelmed. Also, fear of the unknown can make people avoid exploring new possibilities, learning new skills, or facing new challenges.

These challenges of courage can be overcome by developing a growth mindset, a positive attitude, and a strong sense of self-efficacy. A growth mindset is the belief that one’s abilities and potential can be improved through effort and learning. A positive attitude is the ability to focus on the benefits and opportunities of a situation rather than the drawbacks and obstacles. A strong sense of self-efficacy is the confidence in one’s ability to cope with challenges and achieve desired outcomes. By cultivating these qualities, one can enhance their courage and overcome their fears.

Famous examples of courage

Courage is the ability to act bravely in the face of danger, fear, or difficulty. There are many examples of courage throughout history and in everyday life. Some of these examples are:

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  • Harriet Tubman leading slaves to freedom on the underground railroad.
  • Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger in 1955, sparking the Montgomery bus boycott.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. standing up for equal rights and leading the civil rights movement in the United States.
  • Joan of Arc, facing harsh criticism and burning at the stake for her beliefs and actions during the Hundred Years’ War.
  • Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who rescued 75 men, one at a time, while under fire during the Battle of Okinawa in World War II.

These are just some of the famous examples of courage that have inspired millions of people around the world. Courage can also be shown in smaller and more personal ways, such as trying something new, standing up for oneself or others, or helping someone in need. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to overcome it.

Meditation for courage

Further reading

There are many articles online that discuss courage from different perspectives and offer insights, tips and examples of courageous people. Here are some weblinks for articles discussing courage:
This article by psychologist Melanie Greenberg explores the six attributes of courage: feeling fear yet choosing to act, following your heart, persevering in the face of adversity, standing up for what is right, expanding your horizons and letting go of the familiar.
This article by leadership coach Margie Warrell argues that courage is not an act of bravery, but a habit that can be cultivated and practised. She shares four ways to build courage muscles: start small, reframe fear as excitement, embrace discomfort and surround yourself with courageous people.
This article by journalist David Robson examines how to find courage in difficult times. He draws on research and interviews with experts to suggest some strategies to boost courage, such as reframing the situation, finding a role model, using self-talk and imagining the worst-case scenario.
This article by business writer Marcel Schwantes lists seven powerful habits of highly courageous leaders. He claims that courageous leaders are those who: speak up for what they believe in, admit their mistakes, delegate authority, take calculated risks, challenge the status quo, give honest feedback and show vulnerability.


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