There are countless definitions and quotes about courage. We may read them in an attempt to discover it within ourselves or to find the inspiration to act with valor.
All too often people do things that they believe are courageous when in fact they are acts of cowardice. The behavior may feel courageous to the person doing it but they are not true acts of bravery. They are the exact opposite.
The two key conditions involved in the act of being brave are “the unknown” and “perceived danger.” A related component is the lack of a “clear advantage.”
Most of what is written about courage is on describing what it is. I am going add a new dimension by defining courage by what it is NOT. Here’s a list of common behaviors that are NOT acts of courage.
- Behaving aggressively, forcefully, or unkindly toward a customer service representative, food server, porter, or valet.
- Behaving aggressively, forcefully, or unkindly toward a person who works for you or rents property from you.
- Behaving aggressively, forcefully, or unkindly toward a person without cause because you’re a police officer, judge, coach, or teacher.
- Behaving aggressively, forcefully, or unkindly toward a person who is alone while you are being backed up by one or more friends.
- Behaving physically aggressive toward a person who clearly has a disadvantage because of their size, strength, ability, age (young or old), or sex.
- Behaving “physically” aggressive toward a person who is alone when you clearly have the advantage because you are being backed up by one or more friends.
- Behaving courageously while you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Speaking hatefully about a person or group simply because they don’t share your ethnicity, nationally, or religion.
- Committing an act, in a secretive way to avoid ever being detected, that damages a person’s body, property, finances, career, or reputation.
- Speaking angrily and critically about a person behind their back to other people.
- Committing an act of terrorism no matter how small.
- Shooting an animal with a rifle or other lethal weapon for sport or to eat.
- Choosing a behavior or activity that you’ve done successfully many times before.
- Making and acting on a decision that involves no risk, change, or unknown factors.
- Posting “anonymous” critical, hateful, or damaging information about a person, company, or organization on the internet.
There are many rewards for true acts of courage. There are no shortcuts to bravery though. And there is no way to earn the respect of other people through fictitious or deceptive acts of courage.