Saturday, June 9, 2012

Courage is Being Scared to Death But Saddling Up Anyway

Graphic by Anthony Freda: www.AnthonyFreda.com

The Secret to Courage … Love

There is a real misunderstanding of what it means to be courageous. In America, courage is often thought of as a testosterone-driven toughness. There’s nothing the matter with testosterone. Masculinity is a great thing. But many American men secretly fear that they don’t have sufficient testosterone to really be brave when the chips are down. Even those of us who think of ourselves as brave men usually only act like that when we know it is within the bounds of safety, within the limits of what we can handle.

We might jump into a bar room brawl to protect our buddy, but that’s because we know we’re only going to get knocked around a little bit — nothing but bruises that will go away in a little while. The stakes just aren’t that high.

But most American men secretly doubt whether they are macho enough to pull it off under fire. They may watch alot of action movies, and talk tough, and stand up when its not really dangerous (or when they clearly outgun the other guy), but they are secretly terrified that they don’t have quite enough backbone to pull it off against the big boys, such as tyrants.

I would argue that this view fundamentally misunderstands the nature of courage, and ensures that we will never have true courage when it counts.

By way of analogy, the word “discipline” comes from “disciple”. If you are a true “disciple” of an idea of a plan or a strategy or a religion, then you will stick to it and “have discipline” to reach your goal. It is not just a matter of willpower; it is also devotion to something bigger than ourselves.

Similarly, the word “courage” comes from the French “with heart”. Why does it have this root meaning? Because it takes heart to act bravely. That’s how my childhood Karate teacher used the word: when I was practicing with courage, power and focus, he would say “you have alot of heart today” (indeed, many old-school warriors use the phrase “fighting with heart” in that way).

If courage is acting “with heart”, we’ve lost heart. And without heart, we cannot face the truth.


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