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Saturday, July 8, 2017

I Want To See You Be Brave: Foolish courage versus legitimate bravery.

Due to a just completed Washington, D.C. trip, I took a bit over a week away from my blog. However, given that part of my D.C. trip consisted of visiting heroes of the American Revolution as well as those who died in the service of our country, I think the topic matter of bravery is appropriate at this time.

Anyway, I think that I like most people, have some areas of life in which I'm brave in and some areas in which I am not so brave in.  I can be very brave in tolerating pain, but I've been known to avoid making necessary calls to deal with a creditor.  Sometimes, my bravery (or lack thereof) will be based on whom I'm having to deal with.  Sometimes, however it can be dependent on how I am feeling at the moment--anxious, carefree, etc...

I thought I'd take the opportunity to make a few observations on bravery, specifically when it is legitimate and when it is what I call 'foolish courage'.  I tend to be a realist by nature, so I don't expect 100% agreement on my take from someone who is more of a dream, but I digress.  Below are some examples.

Legitimate Bravery 
  • Handling an illness, especially where pain or discomfort is involved, with grace and dignity.
  • Facing (legitimate) and certain discipline without complaining, making excuses or trying to justify the actions or behavior which led to it.
  • Facing an unexpected loss (personal or financial) and focusing on what needs to be done rather than being paralyzed
    • Making burial arrangements
    • Making payment arrangements when unexpected expenses show up.
  • Risking your own safety and health to protect others
    • Fighting fires as a fireman
    • Protecting lives as a police officer, especially in dangerous situations.
    • Stepping up and protecting loved ones (or strangers) when threatened
  • Saying no to peer pressure especially where there is a high risk of being berated or worse.
  • Standing up for your beliefs when there is a cost to it.

Foolish Courage
  • Building up the 'courage' to do something reckless, stupid or wrong.
    • Drag racing or a reckless stunt where you aren't trained at either in an attempt to prove how 'brave' you are.
    • Purposely confronting and being antagonistic toward an aggressive person or group.
    • Seeking to get illegal drugs or in illicit behavior where there is a high cost to getting 'caught'.
  • Trying to do a dangerous task by yourself, when you have readily available help.
  • Not avoiding a troubled area of town just to show how 'brave' you are, when there is a perfectly legitimate alternative route.
  • Taking on an assignment which you are hopelessly unqualified and will likely fail rather than taking on a challenging but more realistic task, especially where the motivation is greed or to prove something.

Sometimes it is clear whether one is engaging what I call 'foolish courage' or 'legitimate bravery' and sometimes the lines are blurred.  Sometimes, I believe the two can overlap.  For example, when you try to rescue someone you clearly aren't qualified or able to and put your own life in danger.  On the one hand that is brave, but on the other hand that can be foolish.  For me the biggest determining factor is what is the individual's motivation.  That is, is he or she being 'brave' because it is the right thing to do, or because it is designed to gain them validation or fill a selfish desire. If the behavior is done because it is the right thing to do, it is more likely to be done with legitimate bravery.  If it is because of wrong or faulty motivation, it is likely done with foolish courage.

A good way to wrap this blog up is by asking a few questions when considering whether you are being brave or being foolish (some of which I have already alluded to):
  • Are your actions based on the need for validation?
  • Are your actions based on seeking some selfish gain?
  • Are your actions putting your own interests over that of another?
  • Are your actions based on desiring to the the right thing? And do you think about them or just do them/
  • If your actions have mixed motivations, would you engage in the 'brave' behavior if there was no chance of gain or validation for you out of it.  
    • If only your Higher Power (God) knew of your good deed, would you still do it?
    • Or do you feel the need to have your good deed noticed?
  • Are your actions based on trying to satisfy an addictive 'need'?
  • Is there a safer (and effective) way to accomplish what you are considering doing?
  • Has the opportunity to be 'brave' presented itself or is it something that is being forced?  

In many cases, it is clear to all whether we are engaging in foolish courage or actual bravery.  However, in many cases, only we and our Higher Power (God) truly know.  In those situations, if we are honest with ourselves, I believe we will know the difference.  My takeaway: There will always opportunities to be brave should you desire to do so.  When the opportunity appears to present itself, put your motivations second and see if it is the right time to be brave or if you are likely just going to engage in 'foolish courage'.  I believe at those times we know in our heart what is the right thing to do and if we don't get in our own way will do it.

Just some thoughts...

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