Courage, according to Greek philosopher Aristotle, is the mean between fear and recklessness. In the face of danger, reckless men take unnecessary risks with excessive confidence. Courageous men strike a balance between foolhardy recklessness and irrational fear by respecting that which should be feared and enduring to uphold virtues such as truth, honor, and justice.
Why is Courage Important?
With courage, we are authentic with all our friends, consistently true to ourselves and our values. As we walk with a clean conscience and a spirit of integrity, courage gives us a greater sense of ease as we move through the world. Roman poet, Virgil, said, “Fortune favors the bold.” With purpose and bravery, we can seize life-changing opportunities for money and travel experiences unavailable to those who don’t carry courage into their dreams.
The simplest and most effective way to overcome fear is to take action and prove our minds wrong. Start doing the thing—it will quickly become less intimidating.
How To Develop Courage
Our internal assumptions orient not only our attitudes and behaviors—they empower our very capabilities. The labels we use to name our life story and the frames we place around it are crucially important: we are a victim or a survivor, we avoid danger or we embrace an opportunity to learn something new. If through our lens, we believe “everyone is selfish and only looks out for themselves,” we become suspicious and focus more on potential wrongdoings than on potential for good. It is up to us to challenge negative misinterpretations, repurpose limiting stories, and view situations in ways that expand our thinking. New perspectives can give birth to new courage.
Helping Children Develop Courage
Bravery is not always a standalone quality, courage is contagious. Have conversations with the kids and learn about what they are going through. Be all ears so they know we are listening. THEN, after dad listens, maybe admit one of our struggles, share how we had to find our way through, and inspire them to courageously face their own adversity. Never dismiss a child’s fears; acknowledge them, affirm their bravery, and express unconditional love. A father’s non-judgmental energy helps children do their best, even when they’re against the odds. If they do fall short, they’ll be more likely to bounce back, especially when they can count on support from their father. While it’s nice to win, victory does not and cannot teach the valuable insights learned from failure, the lessons most impactful for helping us grow.
If, at bedtime, children are afraid of the dark, nurture them for a reasonable time—but be firm when the time comes for lights out. Remind them of a fear they once faced and how good it felt to overcome. Provided they are fully capable, we inspire bravery AND industry, we stifle cowardice AND laziness… by refusing to do things for kids that they can do for themselves.
Kids can be intimidated by the unknown, especially if they are limited by a fixed mindset, an affliction all too common among young children. Once a child can recognize the differences between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset, fathers should consistently encourage the latter. By embracing a growth mindset, this one simple shift in thinking will be of monumental value throughout their entire lives.
Overcoming fear all at once can be difficult. In the 1991 comedy, What About Bob?,” Dr. Leo Marvin wrote about progressively desensitizing from fear in his best-selling book, Baby Steps. By taking on small increments of fear, we progressively gain comfort.
Let’s say we fear snakes. A snake locked in a cage in the next room might give us anxiety. Start by focusing mental effort on realizing that we are fine—the snake is in the other room—it won’t hurt us. Then, sit near the cage until we feel more comfortable. Maybe go right up the cage and watch the snake slithering along. Maybe ask someone to open the cover, while monitoring that the snake doesn’t get aggressive.
Take whatever time is needed with each step. As anxiety is reduced, take additional baby steps closer to whatever is causing fear. Whether we fear heights, spiders, small spaces, or public speaking, baby steps can help us progressively desensitize as we travel the path to finding courage.
When facing fears, a lack of belief can make things seem worse than they really are. It’s not easy, but if we learn to harness control over our thoughts, we will have succeeded in the first and most difficult part of the battle. The eventual progression of mental fortitude is that it manifests in the physical form—as courage. If—and when—this happens, we experience an epiphany of triumphant discovery! Seize the moment to flip negative emotions upside down! Allow fear to become excitement! Allow anxiety to become confidence!
Increase Education & Awareness
Sometimes our fears are solely due to a lack of understanding. Education on the fear we are struggling with can demystify things. Afraid of spiders? Most spiders are harmless. Afraid of flying? Statistical research confirms flying is literally safer than driving, walking, or cycling. If we’re going to be afraid of something, make sure the fear is legitimate.
Roots of mediocrity wear many disguises, including complacency, procrastination, and laziness, all of which volunteer themselves as masks for the real culprit: fear. If we don’t try, we protect ourselves from fear because we won’t fail, but we also won’t succeed. This path allows us to comfortably join the ranks of those who live as Theodore Roosevelt called, “those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
To achieve our potential, we must break free from the comfortable shackles of fear and courageously take on risks. Motivated by the will to overcome, honest reflection can help us identify any fears that might be holding us back. By casting aside excuses and rationalizations, we are empowered by courage to take action. American writer, Dale Carnegie, said, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of sound mind.”
—2 Timothy 1:7 KJV
The magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found. The story of the treasures Santiago finds along the way teaches us, as only a few stories can, about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, above all, following our dreams.
Working up the courage to take a big, important leap is hard, but Jabari is almost absolutely ready to make a giant splash.
An inspiring picture book affirmation about having courage even in difficult times. Some days, when everything around you seems scary, you have to be brave.
In Courage Is Calling, Ryan Holiday breaks down the elements of fear, an expression of cowardice, the elements of courage, an expression of bravery, and lastly, the elements of heroism, an expression of valor. Through engaging stories about historic and contemporary leaders, Holiday shows you how to conquer fear and practice courage in your daily life.
PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Fathers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.