ENG 103 D090
18 February 2015 Courage: What it Means and Why it Matters “You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore” was once said by Christopher Columbus. The word courage originally came from the root word cor- meaning heart in Latin, and so in its earliest form, courage was defined as “to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Although, throughout the years the definition has drastically been altered in many ways, the meaning of the word has not been. In most cases we associate the word courage with being heroic and brave, but that is not always necessarily the case.
In “Blowing Up” by Malcolm Gladwell courage played an extremely important role. Gladwell tells the story of Nassim Taleb, an investment banker, and Victor Niederhoffer, a successful money manager, and how Taleb believes that Niederhoffer has made all of his fortune by assuming that most events happen in predictable patterns. Taleb, however, does not believe in Niederhoffer’s theory, and believes that “there is more courage and heroism in defying the human impulse, in taking the purposeful and painful steps to prepare for the unimaginable” (Gladwell 75).
In this day and age, courage is usually broken down into two subcategories: physical and moral courage. Physical courage, the most thought of, is overcoming the fear of physical harm or injury, like a firefighter running into burning buildings to save peoples’ lives. Moral or mental courage on the other hand is overcoming the fear of emotional harm or ridicule, like a responsible teen calling her parents to come and pick her up from a party where alcohol has been served.
Since the very beginning of the word courage, the meaning has changed drastically throughout the years. With the first meaning being “telling a story of who you are with your whole heart,” the standard dictionary definition of the word courage has now been changed to “the ability to do something that frightens one.” Although the dictionary definition has changed over the years, the word ultimately still has both meanings and is quite frequently used in both situations.
Courage is not always about being brave because if that were the case, then running into a wall to catch a ball would be considered courageous. “It is possible to be brave without being courageous and to be courageous without being brave” (Celizic 1). To most people, being courageous is about overcoming all obstacles that life could throw at you, and most importantly never giving up or saying “I quit.”
This is also the truth when it comes to fear because being fearless is not a requirement in being courageous. We are supposed to be taught that courage is not about acting without fear, but that it’s about overcoming and acting in spite of your fears and going out of your comfort zone to do so. “There is only one thing that we can claim with complete confidence is indispensable to courage, that must always be present for courage to exist: fear. You must be afraid to have courage” (McCain, Salter 198).
Without a doubt, a lot of values underlie being courageous such as: honesty, forgiveness, compassion, respect, responsibility, determination, etc. Courage, especially moral courage, when determining the right thing to do requires these important values. “We need moral courage to be honest all the time” (McCain, Salter 42). When people practice these values explained, along with many other values not mentioned, courage almost always comes into play and is usually necessary.