Character traits

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear. - Mark Twain, American humorist, writer, and lecturer

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Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.
- Mark Twain, American humorist, writer, and lecturer

You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships every day. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.

- Epicurus, Greek philosopher

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.

- Winston Churchill, British orator, author, and prime minister during World War II

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.

- C.S. Lewis, British scholar and novelist

Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.
- Paulo Coelho, Brazilian novelist

Courage is a special kind of knowledge; the knowledge of how to fear what ought to be feared and how not to fear what ought not to be feared.

- David Ben-Gurion, First Israeli prime minister

  1. Examples of courage from literature, movies, and/or real life

    • In their song “Courage is,” UK group The Strange Familiar sings about how:

Courage is when you're afraid
Courage is when it all seems grey
Courage is when you make a change,
And you keep on living anyway.

You can experience their song by watching and reading the lyrics on this video.

    • Courage Under Fire tells the story of Liviu Librescu, a Romanian engineering professor and Holocaust survivor. Prof. Librescu blocked the door of his Virginia Tech classroom with his body to save the lives of twenty-two of his students.

    • Semper fidelis, Latin for always faithful, is the motto of the United States Marine Corps. Watch this commercial to see why honor, courage, and commitment are part of what it takes to be a U.S. Marine.

    • Colonel Travis drew a line on the ground and asked any man willing to stay and fight to step over — all except one did. The Alamo was a heroic struggle against impossible odds — a place where men made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. Marty Robbins’ Ballad of the Alamo captures this moment in history.

    • The Profile in Courage Award was created by the Kennedy family to “recognize and celebrate the quality of political courage” President John F. Kennedy wrote about in his Pulitzer prize-winning book, “Profiles in Courage.” This book “recounts the stories of eight U.S. senators who risked their careers by taking principled stands for unpopular positions.”

    • Col. Bill Welsh’s article entitled “A Definition of Courage” describes what it means to be courageous.

    • Irshad Manji’s Moral Courage Project focuses on teaching, mentoring and engaging Muslim youth to apply lessons of moral courage to the real world.

  1. Effects of courage in interpersonal relationships and other contexts

Parker Palmer states that “Good work is done with heart as well as knowledge and skill, done with a depth of commitment that brings integrity and courage to the workplace. But workplace culture can make it risky to reveal our hearts. So we hide them – and sometimes lose them. By supporting teachers, medical professionals, clergy and others who want to reclaim their hearts, we bring new life to them, their work, and the people they serve.” Courageous people wish to live and work more wholeheartedly – renew their vocational vitality. They are forces of positive change in their workplaces, professions, and communities, as well as in the lives of the people they serve. They contribute to the national conversation about reclaiming integrity and courage in professional and public life.

People that are fearful, spineless, and timid don’t often make the best friends or coworkers because they are satisfied with how things are or the status quo. Other people become frustrated when these people constantly second guess their decisions and choices. Debilitated and paralyzed by fear, people that lack courage are often left behind as their friends or coworkers move on to bigger and better things. People that lack courage often become withdrawn from interpersonal relationships because they are not willing to make an effort to change their life.

  1. How we can communicate courage

Look beyond quick fixes. Discomfort is often heightened when you don’t settle for a quick fix. You must be willing to stay with your discomfort, even allow it to be heightened, in order to fully explore the other person's point of view and to fully disclose your own.

Be true to yourself. It is possible to be true to yourself without judging or blaming others. Courage is about knowing when to create boundaries and when to yield. It is about speaking from a place of presence and grace.

Be open to others. It takes courage to look beyond your own point of view, to see things as the other person does. It takes courage to admit to being wrong. Sometimes a simple apology when you’re wrong is all it takes.

(From “Courageous Communication” by Trime Persinger)

Ask for feedback. Sometimes the truth hurts. It takes courage to ask for feedback from others because that is the only way you can learn how you can improve yourself.

Be direct. Don’t be afraid to express yourself and share your thoughts with others. If you think you should say something to someone, say it.

(From “Mission: Courageous and Compassionate Communication” by Michelle Barry Franco)

  1. How courage is acquired and developed

Modeling: Parents can model courage by pointing out examples of courage in their own lives. They can tell their children about difficult decisions they have had to make. Completing a hard assignment, speaking to someone who makes them feel uncomfortable, and saying no to peer pressure are small examples that illustrate courage. (From “Courage” by Richard Eyre)
Reflection: Reflect on some of the choices you’ve made in the past. If there are any choices you regret, think about what you would do differently if you could make those choices again. Remember these reflections and act on them if you have the opportunity to.
Exploration: Get out of your comfort zone and try something new. Go to a place you’ve never been before. Reach out to someone who is different than you are. Take a class and learn a new skill you’ve always wanted to learn.
Practice: Courage requires practice. Here are five steps you can take to be more courageous.

1. Dare to attempt difficult things that are good.

2. Don’t follow the crowd. Say no and mean it. Influence others to do the right thing.

3. Be true to your convictions even when they are unpopular or inconvenient.

4. Be bold, outgoing, and friendly in your interpersonal relationships.

5. Change your thoughts and beliefs.

(From “Courage” by Richard Eyre)

  1. How courage can be carried to an extreme

If you have too much self-esteem, you can become foolhardy. Foolhardiness arises from being dangerously adventuresome, recklessly bold, or rash. When you have no regard or awareness of danger, you can endanger yourself and others. Jumping out of an airplane without a parachute is foolhardy. Gambling away your life’s savings to win the lottery is rash. Taking a risk without considering costs and benefits first is unwise.

  1. How we can minimize cowardice within ourselves

If you believe that there are some habits that are keeping you from being courageous, here are five things you can do to try to minimize these habits.

  1. Understand the truth about your habits. It’s easy to get caught in a rut and dwell on past successes and what has worked for you before. Try a new way of thinking and acting. Be open to finding new and creative ideas.

  2. Do something-almost anything-differently and see what happens. Past strategies are bound to fail at some point. Abandon strategies that are no longer useful or effective. Be prepared to embrace fresh strategies.

  3. Take some time out and have a detailed look at yourself-with no holds barred. This can be tough. Accept who you are and work to see how you can improve.

  4. Be who you are. Don’t feel like you always have to fit in and conform to be liked and respected by others. Aiming to please other people is generally a good thing, but abandoning the person you are to do that is not worth it. Put yourself first and take interest in your own life.

  5. Slow down and let go. There are going to be times when you are good, kind, intelligent and caring. There are going to be other times when you won’t display those qualities. Don’t put up a façade and feel the need to always be perfect.

(From “How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone” by Adrian Savage)

  1. Other viewpoints and questions for discussion

    • Give an example of a person you know who stands up for particular ideals or principles.

    • What is one risk you wish you would have taken? If you had the opportunity to take that risk again, would you take it?

    • What is one opportunity you are afraid to pursue? What is holding you back?

    • Do you believe that elected officials ever stand up for the public interest, even when it is not in their own interest to do so? In other words, do elected officials ever choose principles over partisanship?

    • Which is more difficult for you: physical courage or moral courage? Why?

  1. Required readings and follow-up assignment

    • Video Kindergarten teacher Dr. Debbie Dewitt talks about how the Center for Courage & Renewal changed the way she approached teaching.

    • Website and Commercial Nike’s courage campaign captures stories of triumph. Heartbreak. Passion. Power. Some of the greatest moments in the history of sport are not defined by victories or losses but by the heroism displayed. Click the links on the website to read more about the athletes featured in the commercial.

    • Trailer and Biography At the Mexico City Summer Olympic Games, Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood on the victory podium, draped with their Olympic medals, each raised a clinched fist, covered in a black leather glove in a historic stand for black power, liberation and solidarity. This silent gesture was cheered by some and jeered by others.

    • Story Paula Coulter experienced a traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury. With the help of the Courage Center, a Minnesota-based rehabilitation and resource center that advances the lives of children and adults experiencing barriers to health and independence, she is now able to walk and speak.

    • Video On September 11th, 343 NYC firefighters, 23 NYC police officers, 37 port authority officers, and 3000 innocent civilians lost their lives. Many of the 9/11 victims that lost their lives that day were courageous.

    • Article 2008 Presidential Candidate John McCain’s article “In Search of Courage” asks Americans to find the courage within them.

    • Transcript and Video 2008 President-Elect Barack Obama’s election night speech challenged Americans not to “fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.”

    • Essay High school student Laura Schapiro’s entry was the 2008 winner of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest.

Prompts for today’s journal entry
1. Someone once said that “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes, it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” Write about a time in your life when you displayed quiet courage.

2. What do you think courage means? Use one example from the readings and one example from your own life to support your answer.

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