Courage – What is it

Recently when I saw the movie ‘The Hobbit – An unexpected journey’ I was impressed by a scene where Gandalf gives Bilbo Baggins a sword (after they dig it up from the cave underneath) and Baggins stares at it and the next conversation is as below

Bilbo Baggins: I have… I have never used a sword in my life.

Gandalf: And I hope you never have to. But if you do, remember this: true courage is about knowing not when to take a life, but when to spare one.

When I watch a movie there are times when some dialogue strikes me and then stays with me, for whatever reason. This was one such. But when I heard it, I also remembered another one from the movie ‘The Princess Diaries’ which also talks of the same thing. The dialogue there goes like this (I think Mia either thinks of this when she remembers her dad or she tells her Grandma about it, I forgot the situation as of now)

“Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear; The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all.”

And then there is the movie ‘Troy’ which I really loved for all those dialogues (in fact I saw it twice just to concentrate on those dialogues the second time and for the record, I am not a Brad Pitt fan).

Achilles: You were brave to fight them. You have courage.

Briseis: To fight back when I’m attacked? A dog has that kind of courage.

So you see one dialogue made me remember a couple of others related to the same thing. In different context’s the meaning changes, as it does for a lot of things, but today I remembered only about Courage. May be because I just gave a small / mini lecture to someone very close to me about being brave and courageous on the onset of terrible events that has taken place in their life and all that. That person had always needed that extra word of encouragement to keep going when the going gets tough.

When you check the dictionary, it only says ‘A quality of spirit that enables you to face danger or pain without showing fear’ which is in sync with the one that Mia mentions. But look at the other two too. I know that in Troy that dialogue might have been used for other purpose, but is fighting back as a result of a reaction to the action  (Newton’s Law was it?) or  on impulse not considered courageous? Why not ? Well, for that I think Gandalf gives the answer. Don’t you think so ?

So what actually constitutes courage? Another interesting article that came up was this ‘Six Attributes of Courage‘. It was interesting and well I thought I will try the first exercise and share it with you 🙂

Beginning with the first definition of courage, “Feeling Afraid Yet Choosing to Act,” answer the following questions:

Think of a situation as an adult when you felt afraid, yet chose to face your fear?

The situation: The first time I did an adventure, Para sailing in Lake Tahoe

(a) What did you observe, think, and feel at the time?

I am quoting from my post ‘I wanted to try para sailing for a long time.. but because of my acrophobia I didn’t have the guts to do it or even think of it.’

(b) What did you or the people around you say, think, and do to help you face your fear?

The couple (a family friend in fact) were very kind and helpful, in fact the wife was so bubbly and fearless and considerate that some of her fearlessness caught on me and she was considerate to give me company (rather than go with her husband).

(c) At what point did your fear start to go down? How did you feel afterwards?

Quoting from my post:

“So now after going the 1000 ft height my feet became numb due to the cold..and what was I doing.. well  as you can imagine by now, I was closing my eyes so tightly that I could have gone to sleep……<a few more lines in Tamil>….and then slowly and steadily I opened one eye and looked around.. WOW.. Can this be so beautiful.. Am I seeing it for real.. There was no noise (except for the flappings of the parachute up there) and down it was just water (with different shades of blue.. lighter blue near the shores where the depth is less and dark blue in the middle) and surrounded by mountains and a clear blue sky… Oh my God.. It was so awesome.. you cannot describe it in words.. if its so impressive looking @ it with one eye.. what would it be if I used both my eyes.. So I tried…And for a few seconds I tried to see and when I saw where my boat was down, I immediately closed one eye.. I dont want to use both my eyes.. I am so happy using one and enjoying with it. We were there for almost 10 mins and in that 1000 ft it was really heaven.. You have to enjoy it to know it. I cannot do justice to that feeling with words.. There is that postcard picture in my mind from that height..having the full view of Lake Tahoe…”

(d) Now think back on a situation in childhood in which you faced your fear. How was it the same or different than the first situation?

In my childhood, I don’t think I ever faced a fear of a physical activity. Emotional yes, Physical, no (I always gave power to fear). So I don’t have anything to compare.

(e) Finally, think of a situation you are currently facing that creates fear or anxiety. What are you most afraid of?

The only thing of any physical nature that I am afraid of , even thinking about it gives me goosebumps, is “bungee jumping”. I am afraid that when I dive head down I will fall in the water and since I cannot swim I will drown even before help can come to me 🙂

(f) Now, is there a way to apply the same skills you used in the two earlier situations to be more  courageous this situation. Remind yourself that you have these skills and have used them successfully in the past. What mental or environmental barriers stand in the way of using these skills? How can you cope with or get rid of these barriers?

I think the main barrier in this is my belief that I have acrophobia and because of that anything related to heights is gonna be a problem for me forever. But the experience in Tahoe made me realize that I need not overcome my fear but still find courage to do what I really want even if it involves heights. I just have to push the excitement, my curiosity and my positive attitude up (in this case of bungee jumping all I have to think is, well I would be fitted with a gear to prevent me from drowning if I told them that I don’t swim right… so if things go worse , all that will happen is that I will be dunked in water and will start floating up coughing…that can be the worst of it… see, problem solved 😉 ) front in the queue and push the fear to the last and then I could get things done.

A single feat of daring can alter the whole conception of what is possible – GRAHAM GREENE,

What has been your experience with courage ?