To recognize courage, it helps to distinguish the various facets of courage. Some of us manifest certain types of courage well but come up short in other areas. Try to detect which elements you exhibit and which courage features need to be unleashed in your life.
Spiritual courage. The spiritual journey requires being in the present. It is a trust in faith that propels you to continue growing. You become a “witness” to your attachments to results and learn to self-correct. You surrender your ego to a higher level of consciousness, and you begin to exist in a place “where courage meets grace.” As all this happens, humility steps in to replace arrogance and righteousness. The sacred within awakens that reveals your Spiritual Intelligence (SQ).
Emotional courage. Similar to spiritual courage, this involves “knowing thyself” (Socrates). A path committed to contemplation is required to release the “false self.” (“The false self is the self-image developed to cope with the emotional trauma of early childhood which seeks happiness in satisfying the instinctual needs of survival/security, affection/esteem, and power/control, and which bases its self-worth on cultural or group identification.”[i])
Leadership courage (individual and organization). The courageous culture of an organization honors and uplifts the human spirit (the opposite of authoritarianism or coercion). The collective intent of a courageous organization is to join hearts and minds in order to achieve inspired results. It means the organization (and its people) will “fall on their swords” to honor their collective personal courage. Courage leadership knows the difference between pride and arrogance versus humility and grace.
Individual leadership courage. Rooted in truth, you know your own heart and speak it appropriately.
Ethical/Moral courage. This courage is activated by the attitude of willingness to choose differently in spite of personal hardship such as Nelson Mandela choosing to put country before self and in spite of his popularity he stepped down after one term. The objective is a higher level of integrity than required for the easy alternative. Moral courage is like a compass. Over a long period of time, if you are one degree off-course, you will eventually discover yourself hundreds of miles off course.
Physical courage. Facing a physical limitation that challenges the human body, utilizing the body to achieve athletic challenges such as demonstrated in the Olympics, facing physical dangers such as exiting a building on fire or overcoming at serious health problems—these are the best understood forms of courage today. Practicing a contemplative life (stopping and “being”) or being centered in mind, body and spirit are other less-known physical examples.
Personal courage. The way of your heart might be the easiest way to understand this form of courage. It is a blending of heart and mind combined with the commitment to hold yourself one hundred percent accountable for your actions. You must recognize that your spirit is the author of your fate. Feeling safe during times of uncertainty and comfortable with the individuation of your spirit also contribute.
Political courage. Unwillingness to sell your soul is the key feature, represented by whether you stand as a politician (self-serving) or as a statesman (serving others). In other words, is your intention to do what is right by placing future needs ahead of political aspiration? Political courage is characterized by humility, not egotism. It is being willing to go out on a limb to express an unpopular thought that reveals your authenticity.
Social courage. Social courage exhibits congenial behavior in public, regardless of the circumstance. With discipline and grace, you reveal a courage paradox: you do not insult others, nor do you suffer an offense in silence. Your image plays a key role, expressing the contradictory qualities of social grace with a rebellion against society’s limitations.
Are you a product of courage, or are you so far removed from this virtue that it has lost its human quality? Take a moment to determine if you can claim one or more of these forms of courage; then, begin to develop the missing qualities.
[i] Thomas Keating, Open Mind Open Heart (New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1986), 146.
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