Fortitudo, by Sandro Botticelli

Image via Wikipedia

One of the interesting disconnects here for me with the standard dictionary definition of courage is that I was always taught that courage is doing the right thing, even when you’re afraid. It’s not the ability to feel no fear that’s important, but the willingness to act in spite of that fear that makes us truly courageous.  It’s a Mark Twain quote, even: “Courage is not the absence of fear. It is acting in spite of it.”

Sometimes you listen to people talk about their truly heroic acts, and they’ll admit to being afraid, and they’ll speak of simply acting because they had to. In this way courage is the brother of integrity. Courage gives us the strength to act on our convictions and to be the persons we wish to be.  Courage is also sometimes necessary in order to persevere, to act on our visions, and sometimes in order to practice our piety . It is a core virtue that other virtues are built upon. C.S. Lewis said: “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”

Courage comes to us from Old French by way of Latin cor- heart.  To be of good heart is to be courageous, because the Romans thought that all emotions came from the heart, and that courage was an emotion,  the opposite of fear.  Now we blame it all on our brains and our hormones. And I’m not sure that courage really is an emotion. I think it’s a mode of acting. If it were an emotion like love or fear, it wouldn’t qualify as a virtue in my reckoning.


I found this blog entry: Is courage made, found or grown, in which the author explores what she sees as the difference between courage and bravery. They are interesting points, although I don’t make the same separation. One thing that really resonated with me was a comment about someone’s child saying that other people can give you courage by giving you encouragement. Can you grow up courage in yourself? Can you help it grow in others? How about other virtues? They’re certainly easier to practice within a supportive community!

Courage: the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Virtual Virtue? « creatingreciprocity
  2. creatingreciprocity
    Jun 25, 2011 @ 17:23:36

    This is a very interesting post – I particularly like the idea of courage existing n action and also the idea of it being ‘the brother of integrity’ – completely true, I think.


  3. Trackback: Severitas « Rufia Prisca's House
  4. Trackback: Courage « creatingreciprocity
  5. Trackback: Iustitia « Rufia Prisca's House
  6. Trackback: Where Does Courage Come From? « A Friend to Yourself

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