January 5, 2013


Part of what makes a virtue a virtue is the ability to do it despite adversity. As stated by Maya Angelou, "Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage." The dictionary.com definition of courage is "the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery." I disagree. I don't think that courageous people are necessarily without fear; I think they act in spite of it. Saying that people are courageous simply because they see danger and have no fear of it could be ascribing a virtue to people with underdeveloped amygdalas. Courage comes from seeing danger, fearing it, and doing what is right anyways.

I've had to be courageous in my own life in some of my aforementioned struggles. Quitting my poisonous job despite fear of being able to afford to live was one important instance. The best anecdote about courage I have, though, is about my great uncle James. He fought in World War II, and saved his entire platoon by throwing himself on a grenade. Both of his legs were blown off. I can't imagine that he had no fear when he was choosing to protect his friends with his body. There's even more courage in the fact that he came back to Canada, and continued to work his farm without legs (the prosthetics were too bulky and cumbersome). I never got to meet him, as he passed away when he was young due to circulation problems from the amputations. The fact that my family still talks about the sacrifices he made for his platoon and for his family – that legacy of true greatness – is how I define courage.

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