The Virtues of Solitude – 6. Courage

Courage Isn’t Fearlessness

“A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The first question we must ask ourselves is: What is courage? Courage is being comfortable with uncertainty. That’s it!

Courageous and cowardly people aren’t that different, they both share the same human anxieties and fears that come with the unknown. The only difference is courageous people hear their fear, put their fears aside and do things anyway, while cowards listen to the fears and follow them.

We aren’t born with courage but born with the potential for it.  I’ve heard many people declare that being “normal” is some kind of virtue, but if you think about it, being normal denotes a lack of courage, as the majority of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.

Paradoxically, many heroes are men who weren’t courageous enough to be cowards.  They feared more the opinions of others than their own fears.  The biggest hindrance of courage is to pursue dreams that are different, uncertain, or audacious, especially in regard to how other people will see them, and whether they will criticize them or not.

I’ve learnt that to be brave you must trust the uncertainty that comes with change.

Trusting Uncertainty

Successful people all share one common element, they have great trust in themselves.  They are all courageous enough to be different, and to conquer their fears of criticism or death.

It is commonly thought that hate is the polar opposite of love when in fact the opposite is not hate, but fear.  Love expands, fear shrinks, love opens, fear closes, love trusts, fear doubts. The deeper you go into love through trust, the less fear there is.

Only in loving your dreams and wanting something badly enough will you decide that trusting uncertainty is a much more fruitful path than fearing uncertainty.  Looking for safety isn’t safe, it’s taking the fun out of everything, which also includes removing risks.

With enough experience facing fears you develop a confidence that allows you to trust in your own abilities in any situation.  Don’t get me wrong, confident people still feel fear, but they know they’ve coped well with situations before by trusting themselves.  Most of all, they trust their intelligence enough to go into the unknown, they know that even if the whole known world disappears… they will still be able to settle and make a home in the unknown.

Courage creates the difference between surviving and living.

To practice any other virtue requires at the foremost courage.  Any resistance to change out of fear eventually causes suffering and stagnation.  In the end it takes courage to endure the intimidating feelings of self discovery, and resist the dull monotony of our lives.

One final message from what I’ve learnt: endurance is the key word. Courage isn’t a fearless outburst, it’s a quiet persistence that will not surrender to the fear it feels.  To fail is not really a failure, it’s an opportunity to try again.

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