What Courage REALLY Means

What Courage REALLY Means

What does your courage really mean in the grand scheme of things?


People often talk about courage. The problem is, most people don't see themselves as being very courageous. Think back in your life. When was the last time you were truly courageous? Maybe it was in middle school when you finally had enough of that nasty bully. Maybe it was in high school when you fought through an injury, got back on the field, and scored the winning goal. Maybe it was in college when you finally took the chance and asked her out.

What does courage really mean? What does it mean to be courageous? The truth is that courage is truly in the eyes of the beholder. Actions that look like courage to some may seem mundane to others. Decisions that took you months to make may look like weakness to some. To me, having courage is the act of stepping into the unknown.

This is intentionally vague. Confronting that middle school bully was definitely a step into the unknown. Walking back out on that field, not knowing how long you could last, feeling like there was tiger biting your knee, was definitely a step into the unknown. Finally asking our your crush is absolutely a step into the unknown (well maybe you had some idea).

The problem is that these days, courage comes neatly packaged in quotes or is displayed proudly on the walls of your office building on big posters. People tend to say that someone has courage if they face their fears, go out on a limb, or start a new business. Sure, these things absolutely involve courage, but there are so many times in our lives when we use courage and don't even know it.

There is so much more depth in the discussion about courage than we tend to realize. I would argue that there are significantly more times in our lives when we are being courageous. Our decisions or actions need not be life altering to be courageous. For some, the act of getting out of bed in the morning is courageous. If you are struggling with depression or social anxiety, the idea of getting out of bed and facing the world is a truly scary one. Having courage involves making the decision to get up, day in and day out. Congrats to you, by the way.

Courage can also be viewed on a grand scale. History is full of examples of this. Think about the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Can you imagine the courage of those men? They would be in the unexplored wilderness for months with no effective communication tools, few supplies, and not even an idea of what a GPS was. The volumes of courage this would have taken is of a scope I can only wish to attain someday.

In my mind, Rosa Parks stands out as the Queen in the courage arena. I cannot fathom the amount of courage it must have taken to say that one simple word. No. That one simple word that would kickstart a fight for equality which still, more than 50 years later, as STILL not been won.

The problem with using examples from history here is that we don't have as much to pull from in the present. In my mind, John McCain was a great example. Pressured by his entire party, he defied many of his colleagues and the president when he cast his vote against the repeal of the ACA. Truly, McCain is on that upper echelon when it comes to courage.

An issue I see increasingly is that people somehow seem to be losing their courage. People are afraid to go after their dreams because they may crash and burn. People are afraid to speak out against injustice because they fear retribution from the other side. People seek to build walls because they fear others, regardless of their struggle, strife, or history. Truly, this must change.

We as a society need to stop holding our tongue when we see injustice or inequality.

The MeToo Movement is a great example of this. Thousands of women have spoken out against politicians, businessmen, and anyone else who has wronged them because a small group chose to face their fears and speak. This is the example we should follow. This is what courage looks like.

Courage starts small. Courage grows. As with fire, so with Courage. One person can start a movement which betters the lives of thousands, even millions. A small group that makes the hard choice can better the lives of those not courageous enough to make it themselves. Stand up to that bully. Get back on the field. Ask the question. Those around you will appreciate it.

I ask you: What can courage NOT do?

Popular Right Now

Austin Alexander Burridge, Volunteer Advocate, Shares 3 Great Reasons to Volunteer and Help Others

Austin Alexander Burridge is an avid academic who studies Environmental Science at Winona State University and believes that work in the service of others is a key pillar to personal development.


Sometimes it's easy for someone to adopt a "me, me, me" attitude. While focusing on oneself, a person may feel nice in the moment, but serving and helping others will bring lasting benefits. While there are many great reasons to serve and help others, there are three universal truths that resonate with volunteers around the globe.

Austin Alexander Burridge's 3 Reasons to Volunteer:

1. Accomplishment

Often, people fall into a trap of focusing on themselves when they are feeling down. Maybe someone did not get a job they wanted. Or perhaps a person gets dumped by an expected lifelong companion. Maybe someone feels they have underachieved after looking at Facebook and seeing great things a high school classmate has accomplished. When feeling down, helping others is a proven way to improve one's mood and attitude, and it can provide a sense of pride and accomplishment. The act of giving to those in need is an inherently good action and leaves people with a wonderful feeling of joy.

2. Gratitude

One can become more appreciative of life by serving others that have less. Whether volunteering at a soup kitchen, visiting the elderly at an assisted living center, or helping families after a natural disaster, service enables people to be grateful for what they have. Seeing people who have fewer advantages, especially those who are spirited and thankful for small things, allows one to realize just how fortunate he/she is in life.

3. Friendships

Volunteering is a great way to build meaningful friendships, not only with other volunteers but also with those who are served. One of the most profound and fascinating aspects of these relationships is how volunteers will learn from those served and vice versa. As these special bonds are built, they lead to impactful connections that last for years to come.

Of course, these are just a few reasons to volunteer and serve others. One can never go wrong by helping others as opposed to merely focusing on oneself. Volunteering invariably and inevitably contributes to personal growth, development, and satisfaction.

About Austin Alexander Burridge: Helping others has been of paramount importance to Austin, and as a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Austin gave back to the community around him. He also has participated in annual peanut butter drives, The Minnesota Sandwich Project for the Homeless and collected canned goods for local food shelters. Additionally, Austin has a passion for the environment, which he pursued when visiting the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, and the Amazon Rain Forest while studying at the School of Environment Studies, which investigates ecological systems and their sustainability

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Saying You "Don't Take Political Stances" IS A Political Stance

All you're doing by saying this is revealing your privilege to not care politically, and here's why that's a problem.


I'm sure all of us know at least one person who refuses to engage in political discussions - sure, you can make the argument that there is a time and a place to bring up the political happenings of our world today, but you can't possibly ignore it all the time. You bring up the last ridiculous tweet our president sent or you try to discuss your feelings on the new reproductive regulation bills that are rising throughout the states, and they find any excuse to dip out as quickly as possible. They say I don't talk about politics, or I'm apolitical. Well everyone, I'm here to tell you why that's complete bullsh*t.

Many people don't have the luxury and privilege of ignoring the political climate and sitting complacent while terrible things happen in our country. So many issues remain a constant battle for so many, be it the systematic racism that persists in nearly every aspect of our society, the fact that Flint still doesn't have clean water, the thousands of children that have been killed due to gun violence, those drowning in debt from unreasonable medical bills, kids fighting for their rights as citizens while their families are deported and separated from them... you get the point. So many people have to fight every single day because they don't have any other choice. If you have the ability to say that you just don't want to have anything to do with politics, it's because you aren't affected by any failing systems. You have a privilege and it is important to recognize it.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."

We recognize that bad people exist in this world, and we recognize that they bring forth the systems that fail so many people every single day, but what is even more important to recognize are the silent majority - the people who, by engaging in neutrality, enable and purvey the side of the oppressors by doing nothing for their brothers and sisters on the front lines.

Maybe we think being neutral and not causing conflict is supposed to be about peacekeeping and in some way benefits the political discussion if we don't try to argue. But if we don't call out those who purvey failing systems, even if it's our best friend who says something homophobic, even if it's our representatives who support bills like the abortion ban in Alabama, even if it's our president who denies the fact that climate change is killing our planet faster than we can hope to reverse it, do we not, in essence, by all accounts of technicality side with those pushing the issues forward? If we let our best friend get away with saying something homophobic, will he ever start to change his ways, or will he ever be forced to realize that what he's said isn't something that we can just brush aside? If we let our representatives get away with ratifying abortion bans, how far will the laws go until women have no safe and reasonable control over their own bodily decisions? If we let our president continue to deny climate change, will we not lose our ability to live on this planet by choosing to do nothing?

We cannot pander to people who think that being neutral in times of injustice is a reasonable stance to take. We cannot have sympathy for people who decide they don't want to care about the political climate we're in today. Your attempts at avoiding conflict only make the conflict worse - your silence in this aspect is deafening. You've given ammunition for the oppressors who take your silence and apathy and continue to carry forth their oppression. If you want to be a good person, you need to suck it up and take a stand, or else nothing is going to change. We need to raise the voices of those who struggle to be heard by giving them the support they need to succeed against the opposition.

With all this in mind, just remember for the next time someone tells you that they're apolitical: you know exactly which side they're on.


Related Content

Facebook Comments