Do you regularly think about the idea of courage? If Google Trends is any indicator, not many people do. Unless you are a rock climber, maybe. So what is courage?
From ancient times, civilizations have described what constitutes a good person. The Greeks believed that everyone should strive to become a person of Virtue. Virtue consisted of four traits: Self-control, Wisdom, Courage and Justice. We often hear appeals for self-control, justice, and even good decision making. But appeals to courage? Not so much. Referring to Google Trends again, searching on the four traits (and related words, such as bravery) shows that Courage is the least searched idea. Yet opportunities for being courageous surely surround us.
Keeping this in mind, let’s consider four types of courage: physical, social, moral and creative.
Physical: People who overcome physical obstacles are highly praised in our culture. That is what sports are all about, and the self-centered feats of athletes. But if a person takes risks for the greater good, such as soldiers, firemen, policemen we esteem them differently.
Social: This is being transparent and fully engaged in the lives of others or a social goal. Speaking the truth to power is this type of courage. In our culture, while these traits are admired, many of us are reluctant to exhibit social courage.
Moral: Ordinary people taking a stand … standing up when everyone else sits down, that is moral courage. This could be in the context of a family, a faith group, or a political situation. In the era of the sound bite and political correctness, this type of courage is hard to find.
Creative: This is about exposing your creativity to public scrutiny. It is sharing your talents, abilities, and “out-of-the-box” ideas in a vulnerable way, with no certainty that they will be accepted. Perhaps it is letting your unique light shine from under a bushel of fear. Have you seen any shining lights lately?