Everyone admires courage. Everyone wants to be courageous. Usually the courage we talk about, the courage we think about and yearn for, is movie courage. Courage in the face of extreme danger. It is an important type of courage, but there’s more than one kind of courage.
What is Courage?
Fear and courage are brothers.”A Proverb
We can all agree that courage is about bravery and a certain amount of risk taking. But how do we define courage? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, courage is mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.
By that definition, there can be many types of courage. Here we will discuss ten types of courage: physical, every day, moral, spiritual, social, emotional, empathetic, disciplined, intellectual, and creative.
Physical courage is bravery at the risk of bodily harm or death. We romanticize this type of courage in superheroes like Superman and Wonder Woman. It’s also the courage soldiers have at war. There have been many, many people in our world who have shown extraordinary physical courage. I’ll name Witold Pilecki and Malala Yousafzai as two with physical courage. It’s likely you know some who have never made the history books or news.
Everyday courage is about the grit and determination necessary to make tough calls about one’s self, life, and loved ones.tepsa.org
Examples include Stormé DeLaverie who dared to be herself no matter what. It also is a farmer working his field through rain and drought, the person who decides every day to get up and go through their day no matter what, and the child who, despite their fears, walks into a new classroom or situation. It also includes the tougher choices like end-of-life choices, or to walk away from a toxic relationship.
Moral courage means acting on one’s values in the face of potential or actual opposition and negative consequences.”psychologytoday.com
We are fortunate to live in a world of people with moral courage like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Aung San Suu Kyi and many others.
This is the type of courage that allows us “to grapple with questions about faith, purpose, and meaning in a religious or nonreligious framework.” We have spiritual courage when we share our spirituality publicly, or when we answer a child’s question about life after death, or when we seek to understand an unfamiliar belief system.
This expression of courage involves the risk of social embarrassment or exclusion, unpopularity or rejection. It also involves leadership.
Ruby Bridges and Rosa Parks had the social and physical courage to challenge segregation. The Native Americans (and others) protesting at Standing Rock expressed social courage. Every person who comes out as LGBQT has social courage. Often introverts flex their social courage muscles in order to appear in public.
It takes a special courage, emotional courage, to be open to feeling the full spectrum of emotional experience, both positive and negative.“lionswhiskers.com
We could classify this as an everyday courage. All of us should be emotionally courageous. But some of us hide behind one emotion and don’t have the courage to face more difficult emotions. It is also an extraordinary courage for people who struggle with or overcome mental health issues.
In my humble opinion, this should be an everyday courage, but it clearly isn’t a courage everyone shares. Facing one’s flawed way of thinking about another person isn’t for the faint of heart.
Remaining steadfast, strategic and deliberate in the face of inevitable setbacks and failures is disciplined courage.
This is an everyday courage. Every. Single. Day. So many people choose to use this type of courage. I do. You do. Every. Single. Person.
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”Thomas Edison
According to tepsa.org, intellectual courage is challenging old assumptions and acting to make changes based on new learnings, understandings, and insights gleaned from experience and/or educational research.
This is often the pursuit of truth. One of the most famous types of intellectual courage was Edward R. Murrow’s report exposing Joseph McCarthy as a racist.
You have creative courage when you are doing creative work despite your doubts and fears. It’s opening your mind to fresh approaches, new ideas, and acting on them. Anyone who is a creative who has grown in their talent or skills has used creative courage to get there. Creatives use creative courage every time you face a new project, every time you show someone your work.
More than One Kind of Courage
I hope this brief review of these ten different kinds of courage has helped you see how you and everyone around you use courage. Some are grand, exciting, acts on the world stage. Most acts of courage are quiet. We often label them as “small” because they are quiet. Now that you know there’s more than one kind of courage, don’t compare acts of courage. Honor your courage and the courage of others.
What type of courage have you used today?
Second photo by DFID – UK Department for International Development via Wikimedia Commons.