Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.
When we are exposed to something that makes us afraid, the lizard part of our brain triggers and we are confronted with the fight or flight syndrome. That is the natural biological response to being afraid. What then, is the mitigating factor that converts our primal desire to run into a forceful determination to do exactly the opposite?
When all of the triggers in your brain are shouting for you to get out of danger, what is it that perpetuates the devout reason to do exactly the opposite? Depending upon the circumstance that is causing the fear, It can be a host of reasons that propel us into doing something that is deemed as heroic or altruistic and thereby judged as courageous.
Courage comes in many flavors…From facing the prospect of getting a shot in the arm, going to the dentist, undergoing an uncertain medical treatment or enlisting in a position of service to your society in which you could potentially end up putting your own life on the line for your duty… and millions of other examples.
Sometimes courage is motivated by love, and other times it is motivated by duty, honor, committment or a devout and intense persistence to prevail, no matter what.
Regardless of the motivation, at some point in the equation, something deep within confronts the fear and disregards it as being the primary factor and instead overrides the lizard brain with a new set of directives which are a forcibly exerted onto our actions at that moment in time. Sometimes, this courage can take hours, days, weeks, months and even years to build to a decision point. Other times, it can happen in a millisecond. How interesting then, that something of such significance can play out in such a diverse range of time periods. Does something require more courage if it takes you longer to summon the courage? Not necessarily. I read an article on Facebook about a champion swimmer who witnessed a trolley car fly off of the rails and plunge into a river. He dove 30 feet down into the darkness and kicked in the back window of the trolley car and did not stop until he had pulled all of the people out. After personally suffering many wounds during and after the experience, he was the same man who passed by a burning building years later and rushed in to drag the inhabitants to safety, only further causing more damage to his body. What drives this level of heroism? Would you be capable of doing this under those circumstances? I question if I would be capable and in truth, I have real doubt that I would. I suppose, those are the decisions that arise in the moment and none of us really know for certain what we might be capable or willing to do under those circumstances.
From “No Peaceful Warriors!” (1991) by Ambrose Redmoon:
As a real, live, initiated, trained, experienced, traditional, hereditary warrior with thirty-seven body scars and a trophy or two on my belt, I find such expressions as “peaceful warrior” offensive, trivializing, and insulting. “Peaceful warrior” is far more than a contradiction in terms. The function of a warrior is to eliminate an exterior enemy presence . . Cowardice is a serious vice. Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than one’s fear. The timid presume it is lack of fear that allows the brave to act when the timid do not. But to take action when one is not afraid is easy. To refrain when afraid is also easy. To take action regardless of fear is brave.