“Courage or Bravado?”

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Courage stands among the list of virtues, and I paused today to reflect on it and bravado, courage’s imposter. Our airwaves are full of statements of bravado and demonstrations of cowardice. Bravado exists to inflate, courage exists to enable difficult action. Above I stand in the perfect stance of bravado, pointing my cap gun at any intruder. Since I am only four, people will pretend to cower before me. But some adults use weapons in the same way, with disastrous results. Too often they give weak adults a sense of bravery, when they only give them a way to do senseless harm.

When I was growing up, I thought that courage was something boys had a patent on. They would grow up to fight wars, climb mountains, face wild beasts and defeat evil. No one ever stressed the necessity of courage for daily life. As an adult I find many opportunities for courage, though none involving mountains or wild beasts. Mine are the quiet, uncelebrated acts, most often of speaking the truth. Boundary setting, not with a wall but with words, requires courage. Saying no to bigotry when confronted with it takes courage. Refusing to join in gossip, no matter how delicious, takes courage.

No one ever told me that fear is an active component of courage. There is an old adage “courage is fear that has said its prayers.” Moving fully into truth, whether about our past or our present takes courage. It also can make us quake in fear. Sometimes we do get backlash when we are brave. But I look at the law makers of this country afraid to challenge the President and wonder what it would take for them to act with courage. Whatever it is, I hope they find it. Otherwise bravado will continue to take center stage.

16 thoughts on ““Courage or Bravado?”

  1. I love this quote about courage: “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
    – Atticus Finch”
    ― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

  2. Another fine post, Elizabeth–I like this series (if it is a series) on virtues and the comparison of terms. I wasn’t taught “courage” for everyday life, and it would have really benefited me early on–BUT, I’ve learned it late in life, so that’s a blessing. Courage to set good boundaries is key–and I don’t find many people who do that well, as though they’re terrified of saying “no, I can’t do that for you”…for example. Courage to simply be honest in communications would be a great help in relationships, whether casual or more intimate–I’m very frustrated when I have to make a point of saying to people, “I’d like for you to be honest, otherwise I don’t have a cue as to how to proceed”. Anyway, thank you for this post–really wonderful.

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