Getting to the Heart of Courage

The Merriam Webster (2010) dictionary defines courage as follows:  “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty” (, ¶1).  It comes from the Middle English corage, from Anglo-French curage, from quer, coer, and from the Latin word cor (¶3). All essentially variations of the origin, ‘heart’: to have heart, to take heart, to be brave of heart.

Since my kids are some of the wisest people I know, and I’m curious what they may have already learned about courage in their lives, I ask them to define courage in their own words.  My teenage son tolerates the interrogation, even taking a moment from his iPod to answer “Courage is: even when the odds are against you, you are able to overcome them to do something brave.  It’s not just trying to overcome.  It is doing something great.  Like in World War II, the American soldiers crashing onto the beaches in the Pacific—against all odds—fighting with all they had…that’s courage”.  We’d just finished a marathon session watching the HBO miniseries The Pacific, so this kind of courage-in-action is fresh in his mind.  My 10-year old daughter on the other hand, mulls over my question—her mind wandering the clouds overhead outside the backseat car window—whilst I wait patiently for her response.  “Courage is being brave even when you are afraid.  It is standing up for what you believe in or for someone you believe in.  Even if you know others maybe won’t like it.” 

Our children are growing up in uncertain times.  Uncertainty breeds fear and a lack of both sureness and hope for the future.  Courage is, and will be, an essential quality/skill/value to possess in uncertain times.
The veil has been lifted in the Emerald City, the workings of the machine revealed and the financial and environmental debts are now due.  That said, are these times any different from other periods of history?  Mass media may have many of us believing so.  But, what about children growing up during the World Wars?  Those were certainly uncertain times, as was the Great Depression.  Are we breeding anxiety without hope for our children?  What would be the point, to scare the masses into submission?  It seems we all can forget, at times, Glinda the Good Witch’s reminder to Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz:  “You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas.”  In essence, it is only after we have faced our very real or fabricated fears or self-doubt that we realize our true power and capacity for courage. As a children’s book author and parenting coach, the goal of our blog is to two-fold:
  1. To discuss ways that we, as parents, can prepare our children to overcome common fears, self-doubt, and develop the kinds of courage to make difficult decisions, do the right thing, and remain hopeful in the future.
  2. To share stories that help equip and inspire our children and ourselves to be courageous in our family life, in our communities, and in the world at large!

As I’m known to do, I probe further with both my children after Jennifer and I start writing this blog. “Can you recall a time in your life when you’ve been courageous, when you’ve had courage?” 

My son’s response is an emphatic, “No way, not yet.”  Courage to him is about heroes and heroines in battle. Soldiers in war engaged in a hardscrabble existence to survive despite the mud, mosquitoes, murder, and mortification for months, sometimes years.

My daughter replies as emphatically, but affirmatively.  “Yeah, it took courage to stick up for my friend K. at her birthday party, when another girl was criticizing her for being ungrateful for her presents and party.  K. had never had a birthday party in her whole life before she was adopted and came to live in America!  She deserved her party and was so grateful.”  The consternation and contempt about the other girl’s criticism still fresh.  She continued “It seems you need courage around other’s judgments.”  Which reminded me of the  quote I read recently, attributed to W.H. Auden: “Critics are the people who ride in after the battle is over and shoot the wounded.” It is, after all, far easier to be a critic on the sidelines than to be courageous on the front lines of life. 

I guess the question is:  Which do you choose, to be cowardly or courageous on the path ahead?

Copyright Socrates,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *