Friday, January 14, 2011


"Courage is not the absence of fear, but the judgement that something else is more important then fear"--Ambrose Redmoon

Courage. There are as many definitions of it as there are people in the world. defines courage as "the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery." ( Personally I think this definition is wrong at a very crucial point. I believe that without fear there can be no courage. It is the very presence of fear that creates courage or at least the opportunity for courage. They create each other like the interplay of predator and prey create each other. Deer evolved to run fast and leap far to stay ahead of the snapping jaws of the wolf, and in turn wolves learned to be social and work together to take turns running a single deer to ground.
ADF defines courage as "The ability to act appropriately in the face of danger." I like this definition much more then the last, but again I think it misses a key element. Lets look at it a bit more closely. First it tells us that the courageous person has to have the Ability to act. This is true, though I would expand what is meant by "act". In some situations the courageous act is non-action. The definition also states they must be able to act appropriately. This also is excellent to have in the definition, however keep in mind that what is "appropriate" can change from situation to situation. The definition also states that the action taken must happen in the "face of danger." Here is where my personal belief in courage in general deviates from ADF's definition. I do not believe that "danger" or the risk of any actual harm need be there. What needs to be there is fear. Regardless if there is actual danger or not there needs to be a sense of fear. I believe that it takes greater courage for a woman who has a fear of heights to climb a latter to clean her gutters on the roof then it takes for a soldier who feels no fear what so ever and is in an armed conflict. Simply put no fear, no courage. Though the fearless act may still be courageous, it doesn't require courage per se. So my personal definition of courage goes "The ability to act appropriately in the face of fear". I also divide courage into two types. Silent courage and loud courage. Silent courage is the more every day things we do that are fearful to us. Things like sharing emotional vulnerabilities to some one. The fear of having to give bad news to a boss who is prone to flying off the handle. Loud courage are things like running into a burning building, joining the military and fighting in a war. The reason I chose the picture above is that it shows both types of courage. The deceased marine showed the loud courage and sacrificed his life. His son, is showing the silent courage of facing the reality that his beloved father is dead. The silent courage of facing the rest of his life with out his wisdom, love, and support. Courage of facing mortality and an uncertain future. I do not believe that one type of courage is inherently greater then the other either.
Perhaps the most courageous man I have ever known in my life is my Grandfather Victor Wrigley. He graduated college with a masters in physics and a 2nd lieutenant in ROTC just as America was being pulled into WWII. He went when called. Surviving that and disgusted with what he saw, he became a Lutheran Minister in the United Lutheran church in America. He built the church and the congregation with his own hands in Brooksfield Wisconsin. All went well for many years, but when he was 36 years old, he was tried by the church for "heresy" and found guilty for his beliefs. Despite it all he stuck to his beliefs. He could have hidden them, could have capitulated to avoid the trial, but no, he stuck to them, defended them with his heart.,9171,808113-1,00.html
Grandpa Wrigley is now 91 years old, and ya know what, he still believe as he always did. I hope that I will be as courageous in my life as my Grandfather has been in his. I am now 36 the same age as my Grandfather was when he was put on trial. Would I have the same courage? I have not been in a war, I have not grown up in the great depression. At age 36 my Grandfather was a veteran, had a masters in physics, built a church and a loving loyal congregation. It's enough to give a guy a complex! Still I have traveled to foreign countries alone, faced many opponents in the Martial arts, faced bullies and viscous dogs and had the courage to witness others pain and not turn away, but I suppose my greatest act of courage was when I pulled myself out of an abusive relationship, left behind everything I knew and had built, and moved here. At the time I didn't know how things would turn out. It was a gamble. It's not all worked out as I would have liked. I am still building a new career and struggle monthly to pay my bills. However I have found love in abundance, and it has brought me upon the druidic path and this essay.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed your reflections on courage. I too think that the presence of fear is critical to courage. The definition I use in my book is, "Doing the right thing, despite being afraid or uncomfortable, when facing situations involving pain, risk, uncertainty, opportunity, or intimidation."

    Bill Treasurer, author, Courage Goes to Work.