WHAT IS COURAGE?

I have been chewing on this topic for a while now and thought it is exactly the right time to put my thoughts in writing.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” —Nelson Mandela

I would like to start by addressing a very topical issue that affects us all. Living in today’s world and not following the general narrative requires COURAGE. Of course, I am talking about COVID and the ever-increasing pressure that is being built up and the abstruse methods with which even the last person is to be coerced into vaccination. I do realise there are many different opinions out there – although unfortunately there is only one opinion that is socially accepted – and I still believe in our right to decide freely whether we want vaccination or not without fundamental rights being taken away if we refuse. I am admittedly forever an incurable optimist.

Having said this, and considering the threatened consequences for those not vaccinated, it takes a lot of COURAGE to remain true to one’s convictions. I know that many people get vaccinated out of convenience, because they want to travel and regain their so-called “freedom” without being aware of the possible consequences. But this is also a free decision that should be respected. Many unvaccinated people fear further restrictions. I know that in some countries there has been a long overdue easing of restrictions, while in Germany the thumbscrews are being tightened further – especially in Bavaria. Many now fear for their jobs and thus their livelihoods. In politics, more and more voices are being raised that only vaccinated and recovered people should be given back their inalienable basic rights, while the “dangerous” vaccination refusers are left on the fringes of society as second-class citizens.

It takes incredible COURAGE to remain strong. You are shamed by the majority as asocial and even dangerous. It takes COURAGE not to buckle and stand by your convictions, especially knowing that sooner or later you will be ostracised more and more.

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.” —Soren Kierkegaard

This is a beautiful quote when speaking of COURAGE. Just think about it for a minute… Essentially you can choose to trip, fall and hurt yourself if you dare to do what you believe is right, following your heart. Or you don’t and lose who you truly are. So when you are afraid and act nonetheless it is a form of nobility, and I believe that all of us have it in us to do it.

“A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

I remember well when my little brother, who was 13 years younger than me, showed COURAGE or in his case civil COURAGE, when he stood up for a girl in his class against a teacher when he was in first grade at school. We then explained to him the difference between civil COURAGE and impudence and told him how unspeakably proud we were of him for showing so much COURAGE at the age of 6 and for doing what was right and not what was comfortable.

I can remember times in my childhood —and my adulthood, too—when I would have liked to act as bravely as my brother did. I tried to take him as a good example but could not always muster the COURAGE to follow my heart and do what is right. Maybe I simply wasn’t always lion-hearted or quick-witted enough but I never gave up. I have tried to be courageous in my life and have failed many times, paying a price and never regretting it. I know though how much I have to gain by plucking up my COURAGE and to keep trying. COURAGE is essential to help us grow and give. And it really is available to each and every one of us.

“There is no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bear witness that a man has the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.” Viktor Frankl

COURAGE is not about how to take monumentally brave or heroic actions. It is instead about understanding what COURAGE really is and allowing ourselves to perform small, daily acts of bravery.

We are all very different and some are naturally braver and others more fearful by nature, and that is alright. But even COURAGE is something you can practice and train, like a muscle. It becomes easier with practice an repetition. You learn COURAGE by couraging.

Even just saying what you really feel, want and need takes great COURAGE and is part of any kind of relationship you have, be it personal or professional.

We are much braver than we think we are. It helps to simply notice our everyday actions, making what we do more conscious, just realising when we are doing something brave or out of the ordinary.

“A shy man no doubt dreads the notice of strangers, but can hardly be said to be afraid of them. He may be as bold as a hero in battle, and yet have no self-confidence about trifles in the presence of strangers.” – Charles Darwin

What is really interesting is that it’s often so much easier to be courageous on behalf of others than it is for your own sake. I know this from my own experience and I am sure that many of you do too. For most of us it takes a lot more COURAGE to stand up for ourselves. One of the reasons why we find this so challenging is that we do not want to appear selfish or self absorbed. We often feel shame in standing up for ourselves. I don’t tire of saying that you can be so much better for others if you are good to yourself.

If you want to train your COURAGE muscle it can help to find others who are likeminded to make things easier for you. It may also help you to focus more on the positive things in life.

You may also try and find a role model. I would look for the quiet more humble ones and not the ones showing the grand gestures in the limelight. If you open your eyes you will see many people around you with different eyes. Courage lies in the small and everyday things that happen around us all the time if we open our eyes and hearts to them.

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, ‘I’ll try again tomorrow.'” Mary Anne Radmacher

As always, I would love to hear from you. How do you define courage? Do you think of yourself as courageous? Do you agree that courage means being afraid and acting anyway? What acts of courage inspire you most? Enjoy your weekend and join me again here next week!

Tanja

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