The Six Types of Courage

alex atkins bookshelf educationYou cannot imagine a more unlikely trio for an important life journey: an empty-headed scarecrow, a rusty tin woodman, and a cowardly lion. But those are Dorothy’s companions on the famous yellow brick road to the Land of Oz — from the imagination of L. Frank Baum. While Dorothy seeks to return home, the scarecrow wants a brain, the woodman longs for a heart, and the lion desires courage. When Dorothy accuses the lion of being a coward, he responds: “You’re right, I am a coward! I haven’t any courage at all. I even scare myself.” We can presume, that the Cowardly Lion seeks physical courage, that is, “acting intentionally in the face of risks, threats, or obstacles in the pursuit of morally worthy goals.” The classic example is the fireman who rushes into a burning house to save a helpless infant. In mythology and literature, the lion is traditionally a symbol of power, wisdom, confidence, bravery, and pride. Baum’s lion lacking courage, of course, is dramatically ironic. But despite what the Cowardly Lion believes, there is much more to courage than physical strength and bravado.

Dr. Lisa Dungate, PsyD, a parenting coach and child/family therapist, along with best friend Jennifer Armstrong, an award-winning author of historical fiction for children and teens, created Lion’s Whiskers, a fascinating blog that shares compelling stories and insight to help parents and their children to develop courage to meet the many challenges that life presents; they state: “We have found one of the best ways to inspire courage is through story — traditional stories, family stories, true stories from history — and by giving our children opportunities to practice courage every day.” [Incidentally, the title of the blog was inspired by a charming and instructive Ethiopian folk tale about a healer who teaches a woman how to be courageous.] Dungate and Armstrong provide a new insight into the understanding of courage. First, by definition: “Courage, very broadly, involves making a decision or taking action where a risk is involved — something actual or imagined to fear. Courage is the necessary force ensuring growth rather than retreat.” Second, by classification: they believe that there are six types of courage — and, taken together, are critical to deal with the inevitable slings and arrows of life. Briefly, here is their classification of courage:

Physical courage.  This is the courage most people think of first:  bravery at the risk of bodily harm or death.  It involves developing physical strength, resiliency, and awareness.

Social courage.  This type of courage is also very familiar to most of us as it involves the risk of social embarrassment or exclusion, unpopularity or rejection.  It also involves leadership.

Intellectual courage.  This speaks to our willingness to engage with challenging ideas, to question our thinking, and to the risk of making mistakes.  It means discerning and telling the truth.

Moral courage.  This involves doing the right thing, particularly when risks involve shame, opposition, or the disapproval of others.  Here we enter into ethics and integrity, the resolution to match word and action with values and ideals.  It is not about who we claim to be to our children and to others, but who we reveal ourselves to be through our words and actions.

Emotional courage.  This type of courage opens us to feeling the full spectrum of positive emotions, at the risk of encountering the negative ones.  It is strongly correlated with happiness.

Spiritual courage.  This fortifies us when we grapple with questions about faith, purpose, and meaning, either in a religious or nonreligious framework.

Courage is multifaceted, and as such, a sticky wicket for research. Dungate and Armstrong elaborate: “Courage remains a difficult construct to accurately and categorically define for social researchers, psychologists, theologians, and philosophers alike (Woodard & Pury, 2007; Goud, 2005).  [We] are in the process of conducting research to compile an accurate definition for courage for the Lion’s Whiskers blog.  At this point, we fully acknowledge that our perspective is wholly Western and we look forward to a more multicultural, and thus universal, definition of courage as we develop this blog.

The study they cite, Courage: Its Nature and Development (ResearchGate, March 2005), psychologist Nelson Goud identifies three dimensions of courage (fear, appropriate response, and a higher purpose) as well as three main themes in the developmental process for learning courage: 1. building confidence and self-trust; 2. perceiving a worthy purpose; and 3. managing fear. (Gould also cites research that suggests six different types of courage: physical, moral, civil, vital, psychological, and existential.) In terms of learning courage, Dungate and Armstrong believe that four more themes need to be added: 4. empowering decision-making; 5. intention and willing action; 6. opportunities to practice and persevere; and 7. ensuring a sense of belonging and self-worth.

Indeed, Dungate and Armstrong as the pied-pipers of courage, weave the strands of myths, fables, folklore, as well as true stories to form a sort of “courage cloak” to wrap around yourselves and your children, “to help you muster courage in the face of fear, to be an inspirational parent to your children, and foster the security and hope for your children’s future.” These are exactly the types of stories that the world needs now, particularly in America, where spineless, feckless politicians, that pull the levers behind the curtain, present dreadful role models. And these are the stories, passed on from generation to generation, that never get old.

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Read related posts: The Four Qualities of Empathy
Life Lessons From Scrooge
The Importance of Empathy
The Wisdom of the Ancient Greeks

For further reading: http://www.lionswhiskers.com/p/six-types-of-courage.html
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264805603_Courage_Its_Nature_and_Development
Penguin Dictionary of Symbols by Jean Chevalier

 


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