What Is Courage?

I don’t usually latch on to an event and step on my soapbox in public arenas. I don’t believe I need to stand up for a cause at every turn of the social tide. There are people who feel compelled to do so, and I respect them for that. I, however, feel that changing the world for the better begins with individuals and, therefore, I avoid using the internet to broadcast change and, instead, focus on personal connections. But today, I’d like to talk about something that I feel the need to address.

As a writer, words are very important to me. Words shape our understanding of the world around us. They also shape our understanding of ourselves and others. Our thoughts are subjective and slippery. Still, we frame them in rigid boxes we call words in order to move those thoughts from one person to another. Perhaps, one day we will be able to break free of these inadequate constraints, but until then, it is important to be mindful of how those words are perceived by others.

Many have likely seen this image (or an image much like it) passed around the internet lately.


It's in reference to man who surgically modified his form to be in the image of a woman and a segment of society's reaction to it as being “courageous” and “brave.”

The image argues that courage is an act that everyone agrees takes… well… “balls.”

Allow me to take moment to clarify what courage is:

Courage is the ability to do something that scares you. Courage is acting despite the pain or hate you will receive for doing so. Courage is acting on one’s convictions despite what anyone else thinks or believes, especially when that act will bring negative or undesirable consequences.

Technically, both of the pictures in the image can be considered courageous. If it's not something you're afraid to do ― something that can bring you internal or external pain ― it’s not courage.

I can tell you what this image does represent: fear, hate and pain.

I strive to teach my son these three principles:

1. The only thing we should fear is fear.

2. The only thing we should hate is hate.

3. The only thing that can hurt us is others hurting.

This image represents the fear that people have for a society that allows an individual to achieve personal happiness.

This image represents hate for something misunderstood.

This image represents the desire to hurt someone because of their fear and hate.

This image is dangerous to deists, atheists and agnostics alike. We can all agree, despite our own personal beliefs, that:

Fear puts up walls.

Hate adds nothing to an argument.

Attempting to hurt others detracts from an argument.

It’s okay to disagree with a movement. It’s also okay to believe that your movement is the right course. But beliefs are personal and should never be used to hurt those acting without any objective truth to their action’s ability to hurt others.

In the rigid words of a philosopher and influential spiritual leader:

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
- Romans 12:2-5

Instead of spreading hate, fear and pain, be kind to one another and do what you believe to be right while allowing others to live in peace.

You will find much more happiness and personal fulfillment in doing so.


What About You?

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