Noun: the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty,danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery
I’ve been reflecting on how much the word “courage” has popped up in crucial conversations recently; in conversations with my coaching clients, with loved ones, and in my most recent conversation with my own coach.
In searching for a clear definition, it struck me that the essence of courage is wholly unique to each one of us in the lives we are living.
We seem as societies, to have developed a penchant for ‘benchmarking’ courageous thoughts and acts against a scale of societal approvals and validity…..deeds which are somehow more worthy of mention than others. We have developed awards systems for the brave actions of a few that we deem ‘outstanding’ in the face of what the majority of us might never have to contemplate.
I don’t diminish those acts of such selfless magnitude by any means – they are wonderful examples of humanity at its best.
Surely though, courage is relevant to what’s going on for each of us. Is someone who faces the daily, gruelling challenge of battling with depression somehow less courageous than the firefighter who pulls a child from a burning building? Or someone who gives themselves permission to ‘feel the fear of change’ and make a commitment to change their job, learn a new skill, move to another country, leave a relationship that isn’t healthy, somehow less brave than the dangerous sports advocate plunging off a bridge on a bungee rope?
I found this definition in my search for a ‘scale’ of courage: In some traditions, fortitude holds approximately the same meaning.
Courage is the willingness and preparedness to hold the thought of potential hurt, fear, anxiety, tension, sadness, failure, isolation, loss, in fact any emotion which might cause us pain, and pursue our intent. It’s accepting that life isn’t a stable continuum of joy, laughter, happiness; wellbeing…..life is an unpredictable mix of physical and emotional highs and lows. When we medicalise the lows, how do we know we are coming out of them? Respecting that there are always valid circumstances where medical intervention is the right and compassionate choice to treat pain, I wonder, for most of us, how much we may have over-dosed on the ‘pill of choice’ to numb the sorts of emotional pain that are an inherent element of living…..love, loss, stress, anxiety, frustration, anger, disappointment, failure?
We grow most from the feelings and experiences which cause us discomfort….these occasions give us the opportunity to learn, gain insight, raise our awareness of ourselves, to clarify our purpose, our sense of who we are, to live authentically, and yes, to strengthen our resolve….our fortitude…..our courage.
Have courage….hold it gently…..pay attention to it…..it will serve you well.