Are You A Courageous Person?
Physical courage is overcoming a fear of death or physical harm. Firefighters, soldiers, and police officers are brave.
Moral courage is acting against social behavior such as facing a fear of social ostracism, i.e. confronting a peer group over a racist joke.
Psychological courage is the strength to confront the truth of ourselves and our behavior, and is found when we make ourselves vulnerable to others. Psychological courage can be the most intimidating form of courage because it is terrifying for most of us to share our private stories of fears, faults, and embarrassing moments.
An example of how a willingness to be vulnerable drives psychological courage can be found in 13-year-old Brayden Harrington. Brayden spoke shortly before Joe Biden accepted the presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention on August 20, 2020. I was impressed beyond measure by this adolescent boy’s bravery to do so. Brayden stutters, and finds a companion in Joe Biden who also stutters.
Brayden made a moving speech even while struggling to get the words out. Joe Biden had talked about being mocked and humiliated as a child by classmates and a nun, but overcame it. Most stutterers would decline the invitation to speak on a national platform, exposing a vulnerability to people who could also mock and humiliate him. But he did so with a smile and won the hearts of many.
I found a second, more difficult, form of courage and vulnerability in a recent Facebook post I read by a woman who had been drugged, raped, and abandoned on the side of a road. On this, the 7th anniversary of the trauma, she told her story on a public platform. Again, I was impressed beyond measure at her bravery in speaking her truth. Her truth elicited similar stories of abuse from readers who had suffered rape, kidnapping, and domestic violence.
As a third example of courage, I have witnessed rigorous honesty within AA meetings. People in recovery are refreshingly honest in sharing their stories, from their weakest and most humiliating moments to the stories of hope that keep them sober. They share what is true and accurate as they come to accept and admit the hard-truths to themselves and others. This type of self-examination is truly brave.
There are benefits to vulnerability:
- A sense of social connection. If you share your vulnerabilities with people and are met with acceptance, you experience a sense of belonging. Shallow relationships become richer.
- Emotional support. Sharing your joy, sorrows, and frustration can lessen your pain.
- Encouragement. Those who hear your story can offer you encouragement to stay strong and endure.
- Practical help. By sharing your struggles, you gain access to resources.
- Health benefits. People with strong social connections recover quicker and have a longer life expectancy.
All that said, there are also downsides to vulnerability. Too much self-disclosure to the wrong person at the wrong time could be damaging. Which is why safe relationships with friends, family, a therapist or support group, can be so meaningful.
Ultimately, being psychologically courageous can bring new opportunities for healing and life satisfaction.