Free Definition Essay - The Meaning of Courage
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The Meaning of Courage
In life there are many terms that are relative to individual cultures. That means that the definition is different depending on the culture's location and its persons believe. The definition for one such term, courage, as defined by both Daniel Webster and Funk & Wagnalls is "That quality of mind or spirit enabling one to meet danger or difficulties/ opposition with firmness/fearlessness." The words that make courage a relative term are danger and opposition.
The definitions of those words are what determine if a person or an act is considered to be foolhardy, courageous, or cowardice. Those labels change from society to society because people possess varying ideas as to what is danger and opposition means. For example, there are many types of people who encounter danger regularly like police, firefighters, cultural tribes, religious groups, teachers, advocates, doctors and nurses, criminals, and everyday people. Contrasting the difference in the type of danger encountered by each group shows what makes courage different. The difference between the danger for the police and the danger for the criminals is that one is done without a valid reason. The danger for the criminals is created by themselves and therefore even though they encounter danger it is not courageous. It on the other hand is either foolhardy or cowardice. Actions like killing sprees or random slashing are considered foolhardy because the persons responsible are taking unnecessary risk. These actions can also be considered to be cowardice because the people responsible are generally either unwilling to face the consequences for their actions or unwilling to face the underlying reasons for their bursts of violence. In my mind and most other westernized cultured people minds, I am correct because criminal acts are not generally accepted nor rewarded in our society. However, in the eyes of a criminal his/her acts are courageous and are accepted and rewarded with some exceptions such as rape.
When we look at actions of some cultural tribes we generally judge their actions towards certain opposition as foolhardy. Actions like hunting styles or tribal initiations are judged to foolhardy because they are things that we as western civilized people do not do. We judge others ways of doing things and we completely ignore the fact that they are customs that have existed for many years and they are necessary for each cultures' survival.
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Courage Definition Many Types Cowardice Daniel Webster Danger Labels Persons Tribes Random
For example, hunting a lion because he stole a cow might be considered to be beyond courageous because it seems foolish to risk one's life over a cow. Some people might say to just let it go. However, they would be saying this without understanding that the lion would come again and again unless he was stopped the first time. In this case it is not just act of foolishness but one of courage. Another example would be the way that the lion was hunted. We would consider hunting with a spear to be even more foolish because we would expect that if you were to be so foolish as to hunt a lion that you would be better off to use a gun. However, that assumption again goes without having the knowledge and experiences that show why a spear works fine for hunting. We would make that assumption of hunting with a spear to be foolish while the culture that hunts with the spear might classify us as cowards for hunting with a gun.
These different views of courage are generated because of everyone's cultural perspective. Generally when we analyze a situation we do not factor in the fact that we bring our experiences and our personal and cultural beliefs into the picture. That outside importation corrupts our views we start out with predefined notions of what is courage, what are right and wrong, and what makes sense. We sometimes forget that there are a variety of ways to handle a situation and the fact that each culture chooses there own way is what makes up different cultures.
The dictionary definition of courage as per the Oxford English Dictionary is ‘the ability to do something that frightens one’, but is it really that simple? Courage is often portrayed as physical bravery in books and movies which see the hero making a sacrifice for the greater good. However, courage can be more than a physical act. Think of social activists and those speaking out against injustice. They too are displaying courage, albeit a different type of courage. We can also consider entrepreneurs like Walt Disney or Steve Jobs as being courageous people given the financial risks that they took in order to pursue a dream. There are different types of courage ranging from physical strength and endurance to mental stamina, innovation and emotional bravery. Let’s take a look at the various different attributes of courage.
One of the most common displays of courage is when someone chooses to act despite the fact that they feel fear regarding the task or feat in front of them. This is probably what most people think of when they think of courage. Some examples of this type of courage would be firefighters running into a burning building or someone trying skydiving for the first time! Courage in this sense is not about being fearless, but rather it is about triumphing despite being afraid. The same can said of courage in situations where the individual perseveres even in the face of great adversity. Haven’t we all commented on how courageous a Paralympic athlete is for working to overcome their disability and excel in a sport? This is a slightly different take on the idea of physical courage or bravery in that it is not so much that the person is scared, but that they are facing a challenge which a less courageous person might see as insurmountable. Another variation on this is courage which takes the form of facing suffering with dignity and grace. How we react in terrible situations can speak volumes about out character and those who are able to face humiliation, suffering or degradation and still keep their composure could also be deemed to have great courage. A great illustration of this comes from popular culture. In the television show Outlander, there is an important scene where the hero, Jamie Fraser, is given 200 lashes leaving his back permanently disfigured. However, throughout the ordeal he refuses to cry out even although he must be in terrible pain. He bore his suffering with dignity and poise and was therefore behaving in a courageous manner.
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However, courage is not always about these more physical aspects of bravery. Courage can also come from a more emotional place. There are a number of examples of how a person could exhibit this type of courage including following their dreams despite the risks that doing so involves financially or emotionally. This is the type of courage that can be attributed to pioneering entrepreneurs like Walt Disney and Steve Jobs. Similarly, courage can be show when someone stands up for what they believe is right. This includes speaking out against injustice and some of the well known people to have shown this type of courage would include the likes of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. It takes courage to speak your mind, especially if your opinion is in the minority. Finally, we could also say that courage comes from being brave enough to step out of your comfort zone and explore new horizons. Without the courage of explorers and adventures there would be a great many things that we would not have discovered about the world in which we live. Take Christopher Columbus who was among the first explores to challenge the concept that the world was flat. Where would we be now if he had been to afraid to sail towards the horizon just in case he was wrong? It took great courage for him to leave his familiar world and set of in search of new places that he couldn’t even be sure really existed.
In conclusion, while courage is usually defined as acting despite fear it is actually a much more complex attribute. Depending on the situation that an individual is actually in, they will have the opportunity to demonstrate courage in a number of different ways whether that means taking a stand and speaking out against injustice or physically overcoming something that triggers a fearful response.