When it comes to understanding emotions, our society has a surprisingly poor awareness. Courage is a prime example of a commonly misunderstood feeling. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as the quality that makes you able to do dangerous or difficult things. Many people make a mistake of equating courage with willpower. It leads to a lot of confusion regarding the personal application of this emotion since people do not realize what is the source of it in the first place. In my opinion, the correct definition of courage would be the ability to accept fear and certainty and act despite them.
Courage is an experience that exists solely within the confines of one’s mind. The same event can stir opposite feelings in different people. What invokes fear in one person, for another one may be a simple action required by their day-to-day life. When a firefighter steps into a burning building, they do not see it as an immense feat of willpower. Risk is a constant factor in their work, and they are trained to handle it. This is why people in high-risk jobs are not paralyzed in the face of imminent danger. They understand that fear has a psychological nature and are able to overcome it emotionally.
The feeling of courage functions the same regardless of one’s occupation. Performing in a competition causes an athlete to feel anxious, just like a pregnant mother experiences anxiety as the childbirth comes closer. Life presents many obstacles, which scare professionals and amateurs equally. If the mind produces negative emotions regardless of the objective difficulty or danger, then it can also create positive motivation for the same circumstances. It is possible to learn to overcome fear and act without professional training.
The reason why courage is a burning issue in the society lies in the inability to properly apply it. Many people have difficulties connected with this emotion because, from their point of view, courage stems from willpower. Trying to deal with fear by relying on willpower backfires, it alone does not have the sufficient capacity to persevere. As a result, when a person is unable to disassociate a particular action from fear, they are treated as cowards, especially in masculine communities. This leads to bullying, scoffing, social distancing which are all actions that are deeply cowardice themselves.
A classic staple of the way most people view courage is Harry Potter. A young boy faces a powerful evil wizard and perseveres despite all the risk and his intellectual and magical inferiority. Presumably, what makes Harry so bold is his inner courage that comes from willpower. A curious episode occurs at the beginning of Harry’s student days, showcasing his real emotions. When presented with a choice of faculty to study in, Harry experiences the fear of getting assigned to Slytherin. Willpower lets him down as he prays for not getting chosen for the faculty that he believes will make him evil. This scene is noteworthy because it represents a lack of courage in Harry. The real courage would be accepting the possibility and the ensuing consequences. In his later years, Harry acknowledges the irony, stating that the bravest person he had ever known had graduated from Slytherin.
Like many emotional problems, finding courage in oneself is counterintuitive. Another piece that explores the theme of courage and cowardice is A Song of Ice and Fire. Two major characters, Sam Tarly and Jon Snow, are brothers of the Night’s Watch. When Sam is introduced, he openly presents himself as a coward. He is immediately scuffled for his display of emotions and bullied. The realization that hits Jon Snow is that stating one’s cowardice is a form of courage. Sam accepts his weakness and acknowledges it publicly, thus proving his mental strength. Ironically, it is Sam who kills one of the “Others” in contrast to all the brothers who flew at the sight of them.
The source of courage is the acceptance of fear and uncertainty. I personally had to deal with my anxieties when I was starting my military service. An aura of unknown frightened me so much that I was too afraid to research for the fear of being seen as weak and incompetent. Most of my comrades were proficient in combat sports and had a stronger physique than I did. The most courageous moment happened when I accepted my physical limitations and stood up to a more physically strong comrade. Accepting what I do not have gave me the courage to believe in my own strength.
Altogether, the society believes many misconceptions in terms of emotions, and, particularly, courage. For proper application of this feeling, it is necessary to diffuse emotional experiences from objective difficulties. Willpower is not enough to sustain the ability to handle dangerous and threatening scenarios. Acknowledging the fear of the unknown, accepting the possibility of failure, and acting in spite of inner anxieties constitute the real source of courage.