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.