Can you recognize the many faces of courage?

Before we go on to the topic at hand, I would like us to cement in our minds the definition of the words courage, and encourage.


The state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution; bravery.


To inspire with hope, courage, or confidence; to hearten.

To give someone the confidence to do something.

To stimulate something or someone by approval or help.

Now, let’s talk about fear for a moment. At one point or another, all of us come face to face with our fears. Some of us fear public speaking or live performances. Others experience panic just at the thought of swimming, or climbing up a ladder. Then there are the fears we have of spiders, snakes, wasps, bears and sharks. We fear failure, confrontation, insufficient income to meet our needs and we worry about our abilities to raise our children. Our collective fears are far too numerous and diverse to list on any number of pages.

Most of us implicitly know what frightens us the most. As well, if we are honest with ourselves, we recognize that we fear not just one thing, but many. To face our fears takes courage but it also takes courage to face adversity, rejection, criticism, self-doubt and the doubt others may have in us.

However, this article is not about how to deal with our own personal fears. (Future articles will focus on that subject.) Rather, it has to do with encouraging others to face theirs. To do so, we first need to recognize that everyone around us, to some extent, is afraid of or challenged by something. What may seem easy to you might very well be difficult or seemingly impossible for others. Sometimes, a gentle nudge is all someone needs to get over the hump, whatever that hump might be!

What are the many faces of courage?

Just as it would be difficult to list all of our collective fears, there is no way to catalog the many faces of courage. What follows is but a sampling. It is meant to get you thinking about the many different expressions of courage. In doing so, you may be able to connect the example with someone you know. If so, perhaps you should make a point of calling them sooner than later, you know, to give them a gentle nudge! If you can think of other examples, please leave them in a comment. If enough of us do it, we should end up with a good list.

It takes courage ..

to raise a child on your own.

for a person who suffers from depression just to get up in the morning when there seems to be no hope and no light.

to keep a smile on your face while doing a job you hate in order to feed your family.

to go overseas and fight for our freedoms and the freedoms of others.

for the elderly to do so many things we take for granted; things their aging bodies used to do so easily.

to face the day without your loved ones who are serving overseas.

to face the future alone having lost someone you love.

for the disabled to integrate into a society that so often ignores their many challenges.

for the needy, the homeless and the hungry to maintain hope and dignity.

to be a volunteer that helps the homeless.

to question the establishment and / or established processes and procedures that are counterproductive or harmful to society.

to learn from our mistakes and move forward in a positive way.

to pack up your belongings in preparation of leaving your home because you were hit by a financial catastrophe.

to start a business especially if it’s a new business idea that no one else has done before.

to be a good teacher in an education system that has by and large disempowered them.

to have the confidence to act according to one’s beliefs; the courage of one’s convictions.

to do the right thing when no one else will.

Since the dawn of our birth as a species, we have depended on one another. Perhaps you are familiar with the following quotation from John Donne’s Devotions penned in 1624:

“No man is an Island, entire of it self; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.”

Today, more than ever, we live in an interconnected world. The development and widespread implementation of the internet allows us to communicate in ways we could not have imagined a few short decades ago. From a communications standpoint, we have indeed become a ‘global village’. We have at our fingertips a way to communicate almost instantly with anyone we know.

We have no excuse not to reach out to others.

Many religions and self-improvement philosophies instruct us to spend time in prayer or meditation at the beginning and end of each day. Some suggest little mantras we can repeat to encourage ourselves. I have no issues at all with these ideas, but I do have a thought. Perhaps we should all start our days by spending ten minutes thinking about the plights of others around us. I believe that if we did this before we prayed or sent out positive vibes, we would be much more likely to have an outward focus.

Of course, we then need to put feet to those thoughts and prayers. It’s not that hard to pick up the phone and call someone we know to say hello, be an encouragement to them and demonstrate our willingness to help should they have need. Or, to e-mail them, or send them a post card, or maybe just knock on the door of an elderly neighbor and offer to mow their lawn, or simply bring them a piece of pie. All it takes is a simple act of kindness.

Remember that to encourage means:

To inspire with hope, courage, or confidence; to hearten.

To give someone the confidence to do something

To stimulate something or someone by approval or help

I have come to believe that if you want more from life, you must be willing to give more and that the most we can ever receive comes from giving of ourselves.

And so, I will end by encouraging you to recognize the difficulties faced by others, appreciate the courage they demonstrate on a daily basis and do all you can to encourage them. In doing so, you may find that your own challenges begin to seem much lighter. At least, that is my hope for you all!

Photo Credits

Porte Sante Cemetary, Florence 31 © chrisholtphotos
Parisian Homeless © chrisholtphotos

Courage definition From the American ® Heritage Dictionary

Encourage definitions from From the American ® Heritage Dictionary
& Collins Essential English Dictionary


© Gil Namur, 2009


  1. Hey Gil –

    I read that list of courageous activities the first time and felt pretty pleased that I’d done a couple of things on that list. I read it a second time and felt humbled that at one time or another, we all have to be courageous enough to do something on that list. It’s an excellent sampling of individual acts of courage, that show how much strength we humans have, and how those individual acts can actually unite us.

  2. gilnamur says:

    Hey Catherine,

    Thanks for your comments :-) Its a hard list to .. list! I relate to what you have said and I appreciate you doing so!

    Hope you have a great weekend :- )


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