You are on page 1of 3

‘The test of courage comes when we are in the minority.

The test of tolerance comes


when we are in the majority.’ Ralph W Sockman

Main Entry:
cour·age
Pronunciation:
\ˈkər-ij, ˈkə-rij\
Function:
noun
Etymology:
Middle English corage, from Anglo-French curage, from quer, coer heart, from Latin
cor — more at heart
Date:
14th century
: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty

People say I’m courageous. When I explain the story of why I’m here, they are quite
in awe. They say that what I’ve done takes a lot of strength. But I wouldn’t say I’m strong or
courageous at all; in fact, just the opposite. I’ve been pulled along by the tides of love, swept
under the swells of culture, and just barely been able to maintain my head above water.
Maybe I did dive in, and maybe that did require an ounce of daring, but the rest has not been
up to me. How can I claim any award for bravery for merely getting by, facing my days not
with eagerness but mostly with fear?
Though this is not to say that I’m not a fighter. No, this description aptly fits me and,
while I’m not exactly proud to admit it, I can at least own the fact. I argue constantly,
tiresomely. When I want to, I can make something out of nothing, and make it go on
endlessly. This usually means that I always fight over everything.
So then, maybe I do have some courage stored up inside, if nothing but the courage to
keep on fighting. But it’s so exhausting and unsatistfying. Wouldn’t it be multitudes more
fulfilling to accept things gracefully, to compromise and to be compassionate? That’s what I
keep reading, but the sneaky thing about motivational, spiritual books is that unless you’ve
experienced something for yourself, you cannot claim it as your truth; and aspiring to other,
‘higher’ truths is disheartening and tiring.
Courage: if the root of the word is ‘heart’, then why does the definition only comprise
mental or moral strength? Surely it should include some homage to its origins, a simple
embracing of the emotional aspect of power that in fact overshadows the other components in
potency. For it is the emotions that we feel throughout our bodies, and which essentially
render them capable or incapable of operating in the capacities we so choose. Our emotions
are indeed our bodies’ response to our thoughts, but they are the more tangible, more real.
They keep us rooted to our bodies, to the earth, instead of up in our heads all the time. So this
is why the root of courage is heart: because one must be rooted in one’s heart to have it.
Now, this sounds like a definition of courage that may pertain to me, that I can claim
as my own. For if there’s one thing I can say with conviction, it is that I live by my heart, by
my emotions and intuition. I trust, sometimes blindly. I leap, sometimes with faith, sometimes
without. I dive, and often am in over my head.
“Courage implies firmness of mind and will in the face of danger or extreme
difficulty”. Perhaps, but if my heart isn’t in on the deal, no amount of coaxing will convince
mind and will to follow. She is the ruling queen.
This definition is slightly different: “The state or quality of mind or spirit that enables
one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution;
bravery.” I would certainly not say that such a triad applies to me, because it implies
steadiness, firmness, calm and composure. If I am at all courageous, it is despite my lack of
those qualities when they are needed most. I am plagued by moments of doubt, not only in
myself, but in my choices. So I review them critically, I pick at my weak spots--I even fight
with myself so that I can somehow win and be right in my own eyes, rather than feel that I’ve
done it all wrong.

“Courage overrides self-doubt, but does not end it.” --Mason Cooley

Thus, maybe courage is itself borne through self-doubt—of staring it down, of being
victorious in the face-off. Until the next showdown.

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”
--C S Lewis

This is essentially saying that courage is at the heart of what it means to be human.
Courage is the basis of virtue, and virtue is human essence (since vir means man.). So maybe
I do have courage after all, and being reminded of it helps me to recognize it in myself, to
give myself some credit for getting through my struggles. Yet I actually have nothing to do
with it, since it belongs to us all. In fact, if I had any say in it, I’d argue with it.
Maybe no one tells us that we’re courageous, and we ignore it in ourselves in favor of
our other demeaning stories. But actually, we all manage to live in this crazy, uncontrollable
world, and this mere act of survival takes all the courage in the world.

Walter Murdoch (1874–1970). The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse. 1918.

144. Courage

By Louis Lavater
TWO kinds of courage are there in the creed
Of simple men. The one is courage born,
Not made; enfibred in the heart, not worn
Above it; strong in every hour of need.
5
The other courage is of doubtful breed,
For cowardice itself caught on the thorn
Of sharp despair may lead a hope forlorn
And trick the world with one swift dazzling deed.

But this that holds me in perpetual lease,


1
How can I give so motley thing a name? 0
That wins no battles nor will sue for peace,
That dares, that cries ‘Alas, my strength is gone!’
That droops, revives, that falters and fights on—
Is this thing courage or but fear of shame?