Courage; it’s time we reclaimed the word.
We’ve allowed all manner of very uncourageous people and causes to co-opt the term “Courage” and its time it stopped.
Courage is not about thrill seeking. People who cast themselves off mountains or out of airplanes . . . or try to sail around the globe in tiny, inappropriate craft . . . or engage in any number of other foolhardy, adrenaline fuelled activities are not courageous. They are reckless.
The term “courageous” has been applied to the plethora of wannabe performers who regularly showcase their particular lack of talent on television programs that are ostensibly designed to find the next entertainment marvel. The fellow who walks into the studio and belts out a tuneless attempt at song may have an unrealistic level of self delusional confidence, but he’s not courageous. Similarly, it doesn’t take courage to seek fame or reclaim fame while dancing through a sideshow-like contest on television. Nor is it courageous to showcase one’s body on a program that follows your quest to drop weight. Courage is made of more than that.
There are men and women who engage in dangerous occupations, generally for a great deal of money. It takes guts to fell trees or fish for crab in freezing oceans, but when you’re doing it for the payout. It’s not courage.
Fringe socio-political movements are not courageous either, and shouldn’t be allowed to use the word. The website called “Courage” that promotes the ‘curing’ of homosexuality should be asked to change their name. That’s not courage; it’s intolerance and bigotry.
Finally, companies that use the word ‘courage’ to label everything from flooring to cleaning supplies should rethink their marketing strategy. I’m sure they have fine products, but they are not courageous.
No, courage is the word that can be used when talking about Reg Price, who saved his crew by flying his Lancaster bomber out to sea to drop a load of bombs before landing his crippled aircraft on an unlit field. Harold Olafson was courageous when he screamed his DC3 over enemy territory at tree top level to get supplies to a stranded army.
You get to use the term courageous if you risk yourself to help others. Whether you’re defusing bombs, or simply putting yourself in harm’s way to treat the injuries of others, you have the right to call yourself courageous. Rick Kappel, Sarah Zimmer, Robert Spinelli, Craig Baines, Eric Boucher, and thousands of others just like them are courageous people.
Of course, you don’t have to be in the military to be courageous. Thousands of people have put themselves at risk to promote or protect just causes and they should be remembered as well. Still, there is a special kind of courage shown by our veterans. They don’t seek fame and more often than not they’ll tell you that they were “just doing their job”. They do it because they were asked to serve their country and they thought the work was important enough to go and do that job.
Plutarch is quoted as saying that “courage consists not in hazarding without fear; but being resolutely minded in a just cause”. That definition will always be valid. Whether they admit it or not, every man or woman who has risen to the challenge to protect our just causes, our beliefs, or our way of life has been afraid at some point. Whether it was at home or in places so remote that most of us couldn’t find them on a map, they all did their job regardless of that fear. Many of them died doing that job.
Still all of them did what was asked of them and did it with courage. They were courageous, not because they were without fear, but because they knew that there are things more important than being afraid.
This November 11, let’s take back the word ‘courage’ and use it to describe those who really deserve it.
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