Forging and Understanding Courage

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

When I begun to write about this topic I could only think about explaining the difference between courage and bravery like a bad analogy of dinner and dessert. This article has become a heavy one to try finish and while it has definitely been a busy time with Christmas and New Year approaching, there has been some procrastination about it. Maybe because writing this has been a difficult stretch of my mind, even in the enjoyment, but because I care about this mattering to somebody, Just one person. I have a feeling this will add value and clarity to somebody’s life so they can move forward.

Let’s Get To It…

Courage and Bravery best go together much like the same meal time of dinner and dessert. They are distinct in what they offer on the plate and the priority of what comes first plays into the experience of the meal.. One is for sustainable nourishment and fulfillment and the other is to be enjoyed and taken advantage of within it’s small portion (I go for seconds on dessert because, why not?). Further though If you were to ask people to explain their definition of courage or bravery they would almost certainly marry them together in the same sentence without thought. It seems a shame because these are colorful virtues that are apart of our human design and are as different as they are similar. Tales and stories have been formed around these very two rustic and timeless pillars of man. Imagery flashes in our minds from the scenes of movies, the intrepid final chapters of a bold character in a memorable book or even just the life experiences we’ve been through that called for the moment to not be spared.

The movie ‘300’ of the Spartans at the battle of Thermopylae remind me of their courage to defend their country and their bravery to fight the odds. The firefighters of 9/11 showed courage to rush to do their job once again while extreme bravery got them through the building doors to save lives at the cost of their own. I remember a friend who switched the order of dinner before dessert while in school. He braved a mocker, taunter and bully on my behalf, to defend my Christianity even though they themselves were not a believer, He earned himself the respect from me as a courageous guy all round because of that. These situations all required the sustenance of dinner and dessert to see the moment through. 



So back to the problem..

 Is courage and bravery the same or are they different? 

It is perfectly normal to believe the two are synonymous and are basically cut from the same fabric. The sin is not great in this one. But what you have faced in life will largely determine your explanations of courage and bravery and it may differ to your neighbor over the fence; There is one undeniable thing though and that is we all have correct ideas on what courage and bravery is even if we can’t dish up the right words to distinguish them. Chances are that whatever you have to say is still correct. We have all been through situations in the past, or some of you are even going through something today to test the metal of our inner man/woman that leaves big space for courage and bravery to be on display, or to be left void.

To recognize something you do as ‘courageous/brave’ we must be balanced by allowing some opinion from the externals such as the culture we live in and the people we hang around. You could call this the plates that you eat your dinner and dessert from. There may be things put on there that you wouldn’t normally partake in and are free to consume or leave aside. The choice is yours to choose what goes in your body at the end of the day.

Without this ‘plate’ we cannot hold a conversation for the validation on what is factually courageous or brave. 


This is a painful thing. A lot of life we are told not to rely on the opinions of others to dictate our character but becoming a virtuous person cannot be done in a vacuum. Without the jarring feedback from mankind alike we may as well talk to a mirror or listen to the reverb of our own echo chamber. Earning character in this life entails deep thought, life success and most importantly, life failure. Earning the patch and stripes of courageousness and bravery as we discuss today, cannot be self awarded, Period.

Brave and courageous actions often happen without thinking. What you may have done was in fact courageous and brave but you did not realize it. Take the example of the war veteran of past and modern times. The vast majority of soldiers who rightly are awarded medals to honour their selfless acts are known to put those moments down to “I was just doing my job”. Everybody in spirit knows what courage and bravery is but because it is immaterial and untouchable, it is difficult to talk about it’s true essence.

I hope you realize by now where I am going with this. It is the fact that these two virtues are hard to separate when talking about them. They become lobbed in with the other without much distinction. As I go over these 5 things that distinguish the sibling words I hope I  offer something useful to take away. I have tried to be fair and balanced in my views but I am not a stalwart Greek philosopher nor somebody who masters either one of these virtues.

Without further adieu, here is my list of differences of courage and bravery

1) Courage Is The Hinge To All Other Virtues

If it were not annoying enough that I jump from analogy to analogy here’s another. I like to characterize courage as a hinge to all other virtues. Especially towards bravery. If something is a hinge to something else, it must support the weight of it’s function, like a door, for it’s long-term effectiveness and usefulness to others. It can take courage to conquer something fear related but it can also take courage to behave in other humanly ways such as loving somebody or speaking something in boldness to an opposing view. For bravery to exist it must have a platform to jump from so that the necessary momentary actions fire off in the right order. This gets into how inspiration works but that is neither here nor there in this article. The mystery goes on. 

2) Bravery Is Short Term, Courage Is Long Term

Bravery is akin to the chemical we all have called Adrenalin. It’s usefulness as we all know is in the fight or flight mechanism of our psyche. It is useful in it’s short term to accomplish something significant and daring but you wouldn’t want to be hopped up on bravery all day long because it is not healthy. Examples of bravery is getting up to do a public speech while nerves wrack your brain, Climbing the ‘big tree’ even with the fear of falling present, or asking that girl out on a date, even though she might reject your pimply face. You push aside the emotions that tell you “don’t” and prioritize “do”. If used rightly, your life is all the more richer when bravery is simply a tool you use but is put away when it’s not needed. 

3) Courage Is Taught - Bravery Is Not

Courage is teachable and strengthened from all exposure to circumstances. You never hear people say you need to work on your bravery, because it is far too unrealistic. You will on the other hand be shown your whole life examples of people who display a consistency of courage throughout their life. There are even Youtube channels that use the idea of seeking discomfort and getting yourself to do things outside of your comfort zone to grow to be the kind of person you want to be projected from the future, brought to the present.

Shout out to ‘Yes Theory’. Go check them out.

The great thing is almost all situations with push-back can develop and teach us how to be more courageous. Bouncing back from disappointment and being let down never gets easier however people take notice of somebody who doesn’t let the dust sit on their shoulder for long before the next plan of action takes place. Be that kind of person and the learning gets easier.


4) Bravery Ignores Danger - Courage Is Still Aware

In a moment of bravery you are ignoring the dangers of physical or emotional damage to yourself to achieve a very clear goal. It’s a means to an end. It’s often swift and precise and by the end of that particular space in time you’ve done something of tremendous selfless value before you’ve realized it yourself. Guarantee of success is not always there but it is assisted through things like Adrenalin and intensity of focus as mentioned in point 2.

Courage on it’s own weighs up the pro’s and con’s to what lies ahead while beginning into a slow sequence of actions. Bravery can feel like the body moves before the mind whereas courage is slow and thoughtful. It’s strategy instead of blitzkrieg. Courage runs the diagnostics of how we are feeling on all the other fronts and attempts to amplify virtues like strength, boldness, grit and of course bravery to high enough importance for a plan to be devised.

5) Motivation Matters For Courage

As It was mentioned before that as a courageous person you run things through a filter before you act. Underpinning your courage are the motivations or the object of your goal. When people set off to become soldiers, they are trained to be courageous for the sake of their fellow men. A soldier is most optimal, effective and deadly when all skills for battle that he possesses are coloured by the courage to press forward and win the mission. This allows him to think selflessly and to take the wise risks even though the immense flurry of emotions seek to draw his attention away.


Thanks for tuning in to this article I hope you got something out of it. In the day to day it is not necessary to obsess over what is either brave or courageous but when we at least distinguish the two we can understand why and what motivates us to act in a moment and why it’s important over a life time to develop character in these realms. Nobody owns the lions share of either one of these virtues but we can all strive to be a little better and make it useful to our loved ones, our community and to the world. 

Dinner comes before dessert, so eat up.

L.C Rabbetts