Different Types of Courage
What is your definition of courage, what does it mean to you?
Do you have enough of it? I know I don’t, not yet.
I encourage you to consider what courage actually is beyond the images and concepts that we’re offered by the media.*
Whatever you have established as courageousness let’s look at some different kinds of bravery beyond the generic idea of the war hero or pensioner saving a dog from a river and what acts of courage can bring to your enjoyment of life.
The highest level of courage is at the individual level.
It is the true origin of courage on the personal level and beyond. Without individual courage from any one person, any act of bravery cannot have the possibility to be spread to others or influence others. (Think Muhammed Ali refusing to fight in Vietnam, going to prison and the personal sacrifice made which changed the perspective of the war for many.)
Personal bravery is also the most important, because without it no one person can change their world significantly.
Think of all the small acts of bravery each day.
For one person, that might be leaving their house. For others, to approach a potential partner, or to make a phone call. For a baby it is to crawl, then walk while risking falling down. Courage has a varying scale for any one person at any particular time.
If I approach a dog and pet it having been terrified of dogs, that’s a major personal achievement unlocked. A reward for facing the fear is to be comfortable around dogs. The next step might be to look after a friends’ dog for the day. That’s another level unlocked. And so on.
Courage is a never ending series of facing fears and anxieties, moving from one to the next. Typically, once we have overcome a particular fear we are no longer affected by that fear again for life. We remember how to ride a bicycle, or swim even if we go decades between the events.
Another reason that solo courage is vital for personal development is that without it, a person is limited in their capacity to forge a life of their choosing, or anything closely resembling a self directed destiny.
Risk plays a large factor in how we invest in courage.
The best things in my life I’ve had to work for and battle for, to go through pain – mental and physical – to endure seemingly unendurable situations. Without those I couldn’t launch to the next level of courage and develop my self further. This isn’t to romanticise hardship at all, but to cite any difficulties we face and overcome as a platform for personal development and evolution.
Ask your self: How much are you willing to risk now for the reward later?
That’s something we should all be asking our selves on a daily basis.
The power of groups doesn’t need much illustration to show their influence now and in the past.
Humans are collective animals (although the digital era is really testing that). We require the company of people on a social level, physically and to engage is essential to cooperation, trade, alliances, dialogue, and to maintain civilisation.
Something changes fundamentally in many people when a group is joined.
There’s a sense of oneness, of feeling a part of something bigger than our selves with a commonality at the core, whether that’s at a music gig, sporting event or a political rally.
For some just being a part of something is the only driver. For others there are aims and needs that they want met by being part of a group. Social dynamics are fascinating and a basic understanding of social identity theory (SIT) is highly recommended as well as cognitive biases.
Now as much as ever, the world is being tested like never before due to the connected/disconnected nature of people, from broadband and globalisation.
Understanding on a basic level of how groups operate provides a solid framework for comprehension of human behaviour when they become part of an entity.
There is a sense of rationale that exits when people become part of a group. The group dictates feelings, direction and actions, leaving the individual trailing in it’s wake, and of course some people are more readily swept up in a group dynamic: picture one giant lens that everyone is looking through.
And the outcome may have nothing to do with the groups aims.
A football fan who goes to a match to revel in the match day atmosphere, to have some drinks and then watch the match unfold can be there for the likeminded social engagement.
A different fan, attends for those same reasons, but they’ve had a terrible time at work and their home life is hostile. All of those feelings become projected onto the other team, the other fans, and they start a fight with an opposition fan on the way home, not because of the group but because of their own emotional state.
So groups can also have very undesirable side effects in that the original intention becomes a platform for further behaviours that are not part of the group think.
Individual bravery is not necessary for group courage.
Group courage differs in that a collective wields a power through its mindset and participant numbers. It does require a figurehead however, so at least some one must be individually courageous to start or lead a group.
Group courage differs to the lone brave in that the individual personalities are adopted by the group and one way to think becomes shared and channeled by each member.
Immediately, the commonality and safety of numbers amplifies the collective courage. When more than one person is being courageous, it can morph into a super courage, with each member emboldened by the others’ and creating a level of emotion and power not possible for one person to reach.
Think of the incredible scene of the Tiananmen Square protestor who stood as an individual in front of a Chinese army tank preventing it from proceeding.
He is displaying an outstanding level of individual courage, while on the other side the army members who identify as being part of the Chinese army sit in their tanks as a group.
At first the group is unsure how to act, because the circumstance is unprecedented. And the tank in which the protestor stood in front of has to break from group think to make an individual choice. The protestor is hauled away, and they can proceed as expected, the group once more morphing back into a collective.
It is easier to feel brave when you have back up.
But that is a temporary state, not a fixed one.
Every one has likely had an experience when they confronted a person one to one and the dynamics were very different versus when they had back up. I remember people from school and work who individually were reasonable people, but in a group they changed radically acting like assholes when they had the protective shield a group can provide.
Part of the group courage comes strictly from the power dynamic.
More people equals more voices, more physical power, and a protectivist mentality of each member. Many people have certain views on matters, but not every one feels brave enough to express them, so the group can facilitate the expression of the unexpressed for those who feel unable to do so. That can go both ways in terms of good or bad…
Imagine storming a government building in two different scenarios:
A) You’re on your own pal
B) There’s a couple hundred people with you
It’s fairly obvious which one most would feel more comfortable doing.
When it is just one person it is very very easy to dismiss them as a lone lunatic, a dangerous narrative the media likes to latch on to and move towards you like coins in an arcade penny pusher.
An individual can be demonised and ridiculed very easily even if all evidence suggests their thinking is entirely rational and logical. Try doing the same to a group and all of a sudden you have perhaps the weight of an entire organisations members to contend with. Far less appealing.
So courage when there are multiple members who share the ideology has temporary effects when the group is together. People also act more bravely when there are multiple members.
In time they may become braver as result of exposure to create brave individuals.
Keyboard warriors and people in cars.
Those are the examples I immediately think of when it comes to situational courage.
When there are no ramifications for our ideas, words, or presence, courage can become almost limitless.
We can and might say whatever the hell we want to someone else on a social media post, on a YouTube comment or roll down the window in a car (I’m older than I look) and scream at a cyclist.
The anonymity online and unreachable nature of the messenger means regardless of what is said the receivers cannot react directly to them. So there’s no physical or personal threat meaning it’s very easy to be courageous. It’s the difference between face to face with an enemy holding a musket and drone bombing a village.
Relating to the car courage, from within the metal and glass bubble of a vehicle it is equally easy to feel a sense of safety from outside influence or disturbance without repercussions. Think teenager yelling something stupid at you as they speed along.
Situational courage is like group courage in that once the situation is removed, without those constructs around them the individual is not necessarily brave any more.
No matter what you want to achieve (preferably not world domination), be courageous regardless of how insignificant they may seem if run through a filter of negative self judgement or criticism from others.
When is the last time you were courageous?
Think of the risks and what they will get you. Be conscious of the process and remember that things which take time and effort will never come easily or without an element of personal bravery and sacrifice.
Things you cannot buy hold tremendous value.
Time, knowledge, experience, confidence: try adding those to your shopping cart. Further examples of what no one can buy for themselves regardless of their wealth or esteem in society.
You cannot buy a muscular or athletic body. You have to put the commitment in over time to achieve it (especially without steroids or other PEDs). And to maintain it is equally a level of discipline and effort. People are not marble statues retaining their form once the chisel sees the last of it’s action.
Invest in your self.
Buy and read great books. Get therapy. Hire a life coach (obviously highly recommended). Go on an adventure. Take brave steps day by day and you will feel more confident in your abilities and what you can achieve.
You have to build on experiences to get there.
What’s the worst that can happen? Typically, much of what is stopping you from being braver exists as poorly defined narratives in your mind and if brought to light hold little to no validity or real power.
Bravery gives you personal power.
When you increase that, you stop giving it away. When you stop giving it away, you start to live a better life.
*Courage can be confused with rashness. Actions without consideration are not courageous, they’re typically as a result of a failure to think through consequence, or an inability to resist the impulse even when the consequence has been thought of.