The Virtue of Courage
Courage is the basis for all the other virtues; without courage there is no root for the other virtues to grow. So what exactly is courage?
Enjoy this extract from James Spears' fantastic new book '7 Virtues for Success and Happiness: Cultivating Fulfillment in Life with Courage, Humanity and Wisdom'.
The dictionary defines courage as ‘the ability to do the things that frighten us,’ and as such we can think of courage as the opposite of fear. With courage we can overcome fear and the resulting inactivity that holds us back from achieving what we want in life. While fear immobilizes, courage moves us forward and gives us the bravery and determination to confront our fears and anxieties.
Courage also gives us the capacity to move beyond our comfort zones since it empowers us to grow, learn and adapt to challenges in life. Additionally, courage allows us to change, try new things, take risks, recreate our life and do what others say is impossible. Courage gives us the strength to change careers, start a business, move to a new city, begin a new relationship or end one that is no longer serving us. For these reasons courage is vital to growth, personal development, happiness and success. When we have the courage to move through our fears and difficulties, and emerge victorious, a great degree of life satisfaction can be realized. This kind of fulfillment is what creates genuine happiness. Courage forges us into the best version of our self, and in that comes an authentic sense of fulfillment.
Courage is a Cardinal Virtue
Courage is recognized as a cardinal virtue in Greek philosophy and Christianity, and being a primary virtue it is the foundation for all the other virtues. Wisdom requires courage if we are to reflect carefully on the world around us. Practicing self-reflection, which is one aspect of wisdom, depends on having the courage to inquire within and be responsible for what we find there. Seeing the world for as it is, free from our biased filters of perception, also demands a great deal of courage as it requires having an open mind and letting go of our personal notions about how things should be. Similarly, great courage is required to practice the virtue of humanity, which is associated with kindness, love and social intelligence. Being present for people in humane, kind, loving and compassionate ways, takes courage as we extend ourselves for the good of others.
Practicing the virtue of justice also requires a lot of courage, as it requires us to seek equality for others, be leaders, and respect people for their differences. Often we fear those who are different and who we don’t understand. It can take courage to accept others for who they are, and who don’t view the world the same way that we do. It takes courage to accept the differences in others, and to extend them the respect and equality that they deserve as human beings. History and the present day world are full of fearful reactions and violence directed to those who are different. If people were to practice courage, rather than react in fear to people who are dissimilar, the world would be a better place.
Life without courage and ruled by fear yields little happiness or success in the individual or for society. As individuals, courage is required to get us through our most challenging times in life, and for overcoming the things that hold us back from realizing our fullest potential. Courage drives much of the growth we need to inquire into our emotions, hearts, minds and souls. It is also essential in our relationships and societies, and is required for the attainment of justice, social rights, love, compassion, wisdom and self-actualization. For these reasons, courage is a cardinal virtue for successful living.
Invariably, life and the yearnings of our hearts will call on us to give up the things we know, jump into the unknown, and follow our dreams and passions. For those that are able to overcome their fears and gather up their courage, life has a way of rewarding them - often in unexpected ways. When we overcome our fears we expand our lives beyond what we currently have, and embrace a greater reality full of many potentials and possibilities.
The Triad of Courage
Related to courage are two other positive attributes, strength and self-confidence, both of which are essential to developing courage. Building core strengths and self-confidence are fundamental to having the courage that success requires. With courage, strength and self-confidence we claim our inner power, and form a foundation for living the life we dream of.
In the Triad of Courage there are several important features that deserve to be pointed out. The first is that strength and self-confidence form a foundation for courage to develop, as courage depends on having the strength to overcome our fears, and the self-confidence to believe in our abilities. Without our strengths or confidence, courage can collapse from a lack of core support. The other thing to notice about the diagram is that the lines connect the qualities to each other, and in this regard they are mutually supportive of one another. Through increasing our self-confidence we will also benefit our natural strengths and courage. Similarly, by developing our core strengths we will also augment our courage and confidence. Therefore, if we want to increase any one of these particular qualities in our lives, we should also be mindful of expanding the other two as well. Doing so will allow for more holistic and well rounded development.
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