The wishbone will never replace the backbone. - Will Henry
Almost twenty years ago, as the tour group in which I was traveling traversed Tel Aviv's busiest street, our guide recounted how his thirteen year-old daughter had been aboard a rush hour public bus on the same street a year earlier when a Palestinian suicide bomber boarded the bus and detonated his bomb.
Unlike many of the similarly aged schoolchildren riding the bus that fateful day, the guide’s daughter survived with only minor physical injuries. The seatback in front of her had shielded her because, in the seconds immediately before the bomb exploded, she had bent over to pick up an item off the floor.
Like most Israelis, this man, his family, and his daughter refused to allow terror to rule their lives; the family continues to ride the same bus route and to live in the same neighborhood.
Can a person cultivate or increase the amount of their courage?
Taking risks can improve one's ability to assess the odds of success, nurture confidence in one's ability to complete the challenge successfully, and strengthen one's self-perception as a brave individual. The military (and some corporations and non-profits!), for all of these reasons, send participants through confidence courses.
The confidence course with which I'm most familiar was at the Marine Corps' Officer Candidates School. Consisting of seemingly impossibly tall obstacles, long rope swings, and other over-size hurdles the course gave those candidates who completed it a fresh reserve of courage, the expectation that they could face unknown dangers and survive.
Cultivating moral courage may be more difficult than cultivating physical courage, but intentional exposure to situations that demand moral courage, and then assessing one's performance can cultivate moral courage.
Additionally, a person can cultivate courage – moral and physical – by developing a self-image as a courageous person, mentally envisioning and rehearsing one's self acting courageously, fostering hope through optimism and experience, and improving one's prudential judgment.
Do you intentionally seek to become a person of courage?
Conversely, a person can have an excess of courage, taking pointless risks and accepting unrealistic odds. Fear triggers a fight or flight response. In a person with too much courage, the fight response overwhelms the flight response. In combat, an excess of courage may mask a death wish. In ordinary life, overcompensating for feelings of inferiority, insecurity, or unworthiness may also find expression in an excess of courage. In other words, true courage may mean refusing to take inappropriate or excessive risks.
Courage is fear that has said its prayers. - Dorothy Bernard