Courage

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Courage is the capacity to meet the anxiety which arises as one achieves freedom. It is the willingness to differentiate, to move from the protecting realms of parental dependence to new levels of freedom and integration. ~ Rollo May

Courage, also called fortitude, is the ability to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty or intimidation. It can be divided into "physical courage" — in face of physical pain, hardship, and threat of death — and "moral courage" — in the face of shame, scandal, and discouragement.

See also:
Bravery
Valor

Quotes[edit]

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life. ~ Maya Angelou
Courage is the main quality of leadership, in my opinion, no matter where it is exercised. Usually it implies some risk — especially in new undertakings. ~ Walt Disney
Whereas moral courage is the righting of wrongs, creative courage, in contrast, is the discovering of new forms, new symbols, new patterns on which a new society can be built. ~ Rollo May
The courage of life is often a less dramatic spectacle than the courage of a final moment; but it is no less a magnificent mixture of triumph and tragedy. A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures — and that is the basis of all human morality. ~ John F. Kennedy
The stories of past courage can define that ingredient — they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul. ~ John F. Kennedy
  • The soul, secured in her existence, smiles
    At the drawn dagger, and defies its point.
  • Without courage we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.
    • Maya Angelou, as quoted in USA Today (5 March 1988)
    • Variant:
    • 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.
      • As quoted in Diversity : Leaders Not Labels (2006) by Stedman Graham, p. 224
  • We, unaccustomed to courage
    exiles from delight
    live coiled in shells of loneliness
    until love leaves its high holy temple
    and comes into our sight
    to liberate us into life.
  • True courage…has so little to do with Anger, that there lies always the strongest Suspicion against it, where this Passion is highest. The true Courage is the cool and calm. The bravest of Men have the least of a brutal bullying Insolence; and in the very time of Danger are found the most serene, pleasant, and free. Rage, we know, can make a Coward forget himself and fight. But what is done in Fury, or Anger, can never be plac'd to the account of Courage.
  • The brave man is not he who feels no fear,
    For that were stupid and irrational;
    But he, whose noble soul its fear subdues,
    And bravely dares the danger nature shrinks from.
  • The VC, to my mind, has a place above all other national awards. It is the highest award for gallantry. People have it in their minds that the Victoria Cross is something special, so anyone who's got the VC must be somebody special. And they're right.
    • General Sir Peter Edgar de la Cour de la Billière, on the 2003 BBC documentary film The Victoria Cross: For Valour
  • Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.
  • Have the courage to think and act on your own. And have the courage to disobey.
  • All doubt is cowardice — all trust is brave.
  • The French courage proceeds from vanity — the German from phlegm — the Turkish from fanaticism & opium — the Spanish from pride — the English from coolness — the Dutch from obstinacy — the Russian from insensibility — but the Italian from anger.
  • And each man stands with his face in the light
    Of his own drawn sword,
    Ready to do what a hero can.
  • There are seasons, in human affairs, of inward and outward revolution, when new depths seem to be broken up in the soul, when new wants are unfolded in multitudes, and a new and undefined good is thirsted for. There are periods when...to dare, is the highest wisdom.
  • Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.
  • It may often be noticed, the less virtuous people are, the more they shrink away from the slightest whiff of the odour of un-sanctity. The good are ever the most charitable, the pure are the most brave.
    • Dinah Craik, in A Woman's Thoughts About Women (1858), Ch. 11
  • Sta come torre ferma, che non crolla
    Giammai la cima per soffiar de' venti.
    • Be steadfast as a tower that doth not bend its stately summit to the tempest's shock.
    • Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio (early 14th century), V. 14
  • Courage is the main quality of leadership, in my opinion, no matter where it is exercised. Usually it implies some risk — especially in new undertakings. Courage to initiate something and to keep it going, pioneering and adventurous spirit to blaze new ways, often, in our land of opportunity.
    • Walt Disney, as quoted in The Disney Way Fieldbook (2000) by Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson, Act III : Dare, p. 147
  • Whistling to keep myself from being afraid.
  • Courage charms us, because it indicates that a man loves an idea better than all things in the world, that he is thinking neither of his bed, nor his dinner, nor his money, but will venture all to put in act the invisible thought of his mind.
  • A great part of courage is the courage of having done the thing before.
  • 'Tis said that courage is common, but the immense esteem in which it is held proves it to be rare. Animal resistance, the instinct of the male animal when cornered, is no doubt common; but the pure article, courage with eyes, courage with conduct, self-possession at the cannon's mouth, cheerfulness in lonely adherence to the right, is the endowment of elevated characters.
  • It is plain that there is no separate essence called courage, no cup or cell in the brain, no vessel in the heart containing drops or atoms that make or give this virtue; but it is the right or healthy state of every man, when he is free to do that which is constitutional to him to do.
  • Be scared. You can’t help that. But don’t be afraid. Ain’t nothing in the woods going to hurt you unless you corner it, or it smells that you are afraid. A bear or a deer, too, has got to be scared of a coward the same as a brave man has got to be.
  • People talk of the courage of convictions, but in actual life a man's duty to his family may make a rigid course seem a selfish indulgence of his own righteousness.
  • Either life entails courage, or it ceases to be life.
    • E.M. Forster, Pharos and Pharillon, "The Poetry of C.P. Cavafy" (1923)
  • Courage is of the heart by derivation,
    And great it is. But fear is of the soul.
  • Courage is in the air in bracing whiffs
    Better than all the stalemate an's and ifs.
  • Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.
    • Billy Graham, "A Time for Moral Courage" Reader's Digest (July 1964)
  • It is when we all play safe that we create a world of utmost insecurity. It is when we all play safe that fatality will lead us to our doom. It is in the "dark shade of courage" alone that the spell can be broken.
    • Dag Hammarskjöld, in Servant of Peace : A Selection of the Speeches and Statements of Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary General of the United Nations (1962), p. 107
  • Cowardly Lion: Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the "ape" in apricot? What have they got that I ain't got?
    Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman: Courage!
    Cowardly Lion: You can say that again! Hunh!
  • Courage is the ability to ignore your options.
  • The onward march of the human race requires that the heights around it constantly blaze with noble lessons of courage. Deeds of daring dazzle history and form one of man's guiding lights.
  • Courage, of all national qualities, is the most precarious; because it is exerted only at intervals, and by a few in every nation; whereas industry, knowledge, civility, may be of constant and universal use, and for several ages, may become habitual to the whole people.
    • David Hume, Of National Characters, part I, essay XXI (1758)
  • Courage is a quality so necessary for maintaining virtue, that it is always respected, even when it is associated with vice.
    • Samuel Johnson, Quoted in James Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson, June 11, 1784 (1791)
  • Without belittling the courage with which men have died, we should not forget those acts of courage with which men - such as the subjects of this book - have lived. The courage of life is often a less dramatic spectacle than the courage of a final moment; but it is no less a magnificent mixture of triumph and tragedy. A man does what he must—in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures—and that is the basis of all human morality.
  • In whatever area in life one may meet the challenges of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience — the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men — each man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of past courage can define that ingredient — they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.
  • It requires courage not to surrender oneself to the ingenious or compassionate counsels of despair that would induce a man to eliminate himself from the ranks of the living; but it does not follow from this that every huckster who is fattened and nourished in self-confidence has more courage than the man who yielded to despair.
    • Søren Kierkegaard, "Irony as a Mastered Moment: The Truth of Irony," pt. 2, The Concept of Irony (1841)
  • Complete courage and absolute cowardice are extremes that very few men fall into. The vast middle space contains all the intermediate kinds and degrees of courage; and these differ as much from one another as men's faces or their humors do.
  • Perfect courage is to do without witnesses what one would be capable of doing with the world looking on.
  • I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
  • Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.
    • C.S. Lewis, quoted in The Unquiet Grave, pt. 3, Cyril Connolly (1944)
  • This is the art of courage: to see things as they are and still believe that the victory lies not with those who avoid the bad, but those who taste, in living awareness, every drop of the good.
    • Victoria Lincoln, "The Art of Courage," Vogue (October 1, 1952)
  • Courage is the ladder on which all the other virtues mount.
  • My courage...exists to catch the future! I'll take my future into my own hands. That's what I wish for! For the courage to keep going forward!
  • It requires greater courage to preserve inner freedom, to move on in one's inward journey into new realms, than to stand defiantly for outer freedom. It is often easier to play the martyr, as it is to be rash in battle. Strange as it sounds, steady, patient growth in freedom is probably the most difficult task of all, requiring the greatest courage. Thus if the term "hero" is used in this discussion at all, it must refer not to the special acts of outstanding persons, but to the heroic element potentially in every man.
    • Rollo May, Man's Search for Himself (1953), p. 174
  • In any age courage is the simple virtue needed for a human being to traverse the rocky road from infancy to maturity of personality. But in an age of anxiety, an age of her morality and personal isolation, courage is a sine qua non. In periods when the mores of the society were more consistent guides, the individual was more firmly cushioned in his crises of development; but in times of transition like ours, the individual is thrown on his own at an earlier age and for a longer period.
    • Rollo May, Man's Search for Himself (1953), p. 191
  • Courage is the capacity to meet the anxiety which arises as one achieves freedom. It is the willingness to differentiate, to move from the protecting realms of parental dependence to new levels of freedom and integration.
    • Rollo May, Man's Search for Himself (1953), p. 192
  • Courage is not a virtue of value among other personal values like love or fidelity. It is the foundation that underlies and gives reality to all other virtues and personal values. Without courage our love pales into mere dependency. Without courage our fidelity becomes conformism.
    • Rollo May, The Courage to Create (1975), Ch. 1 : The Courage to Create, p. 12
  • Whereas moral courage is the righting of wrongs, creative courage, in contrast, is the discovering of new forms, new symbols, new patterns on which a new society can be built.
    • Rollo May, The Courage to Create (1975), Ch. 1 : The Courage to Create, p. 21
  • Leve fit quod bene fertur onus.
    • The burden which is well borne becomes light.
    • Ovid, Amorum (16 BC), I. 2. 10
  • If we long for our planet to be important, there is something we can do about it. We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers.
  • Come one, come all! this rock shall fly
    From its firm base, as soon as I.
  • King Richard: A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!
    Catesby: Withdraw, my lord! I'll help you to a horse.
    King Richard: Slave, I have set my life upon a cast,
    And I will stand the hazard of the die.
  • You must not think
    That we are made of stuff so fat and dull
    That we can let our beard be shook with danger
    And think it pastime.
  • We fail!
    But screw your courage to the sticking-place,
    And we'll not fail.
  • By how much unexpected, by so much
    We must awake endeavour for defence;
    For courage mounteth with occasion.
  • The thing of courage
    As rous'd with rage doth sympathise,
    And, with an accent tun'd in self-same key,
    Retorts to chiding fortune.
  • True courage scorns
    To vent her prowess in a storm of words;
    And, to the valiant, actions speak alone.
  • Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear. Except a creature be part coward it is not a compliment to say it is brave; it is merely a loose application of the word. Consider the flea! — incomparably the bravest of all the creatures of God, if ignorance of fear were courage.
    • Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson, Chapter 12 (1894)
  • Courage is a moral quality; it is not a chance gift of nature like an aptitude for games. It is a cold choice between two alternatives, the fixed resolve not to quit; an act of renunciation which must be made not once but many times by the power of the will.
  • Courage is very important. Like a muscle, it is strengthened by use.
  • Every great work, every big accomplishment, has been brought into manifestation through holding to the vision, and often just before the big achievement, comes apparent failure and discouragement.
  • Who stemm'd the torrent of a downward age.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 142-44.
  • The schoolboy, with his satchel in his hand,
    Whistling aloud to bear his courage up.
  • One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
    Never doubted clouds would break,
    Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
    Held we fall to rise, are baffled to flight better,
    Sleep to wake.
  • We are not downhearted, but we cannot understand what is happening to our neighbours.
  • A man of courage is also full of faith.
    • Cicero, The Tusculan Disputations, Book III, Chapter VIII. Yonge's translation
  • The charm of the best courages is that they are inventions, inspirations, flashes of genius.
  • Courage, the highest gift, that scorns to bend
    To mean devices for a sordid end.
    Courage—an independent spark from Heaven's bright throne,
    By which the soul stands raised, triumphant high, alone.
    Great in itself, not praises of the crowd,
    Above all vice, it stoops not to be proud.
    Courage, the mighty attribute of powers above,
    By which those great in war, are great in love.
    The spring of all brave acts is seated here,
    As falsehoods draw their sordid birth from fear.
    • George Farquhar, Love and a Bottle. Part of dedication to the Lord Marquis of Carmarthen
  • Stop shallow water still running, it will rage; tread on a worm and it will turn.
  • Few persons have courage enough to appear as good as they really are.
    • J. C. and A. W. Hare, Guesses at Truth
  • Tender handed stroke a nettle,
    And it stings you for your pains;
    Grasp it like a man of mettle,
    And it soft as silks remains.
  • O friends, be men, and let your hearts be strong,
    And let no warrior in the heat of fight
    Do what may bring him shame in others' eyes;
    For more of those who shrink from shame are safe
    Than fall in battle, while with those who flee
    Is neither glory nor reprieve from death.
    • Homer, The Iliad, Book V, line 663. Bryant's translation
  • Justum et tenacem propositi virum
    Non civium ardor prava jubentium,
    Non vultus instantis tyranni,
    Mente quatit solida.
    • The man who is just and resolute will not be moved from his settled purpose, either by the misdirected rage of his fellow citizens, or by the threats of an imperious tyrant.
    • Horace, Carmina, III. 3. 1
  • "Be bold!" first gate; "Be bold, be bold, and evermore be bold," second gate; "Be not too bold!" third gate.
    • Inscription on the Gates of Busyrane
  • On ne peut répondre de son courage quand on n'a jamais été dans le péril.
  • Write on your doors the saying wise and old,
    "Be bold! be bold!" and everywhere—"Be bold;
    Be not too bold!" Yet better the excess
    Than the defect; better the more than less;
    Better like Hector in the field to die,
    Than like a perfumed Paris turn and fly.
  • What! shall one monk, scarce known beyond his cell,
    Front Rome's far-reaching bolts, and scorn her frown?
    Brave Luther answered, "Yes"; that thunder's swell
    Rocked Europe, and discharmed the triple crown.
  • Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.
    • Matthew, XIV. 27
  • I argue not
    Against Heaven's hand or will, nor bate a jot
    Of heart or hope; but still bear up and steer
    Right onward.
  • Animus tamen omnia vincit.
    Ille etiam vires corpus habere facit.
    • Courage conquers all things: it even gives strength to the body.
    • Ovid, Epistolæ Ex Ponto, II. 7. 75
  • Pluma haud interest, patronus an cliens probior sit
    Homini, cui nulla in pectore est audacia.
    • It does not matter a feather whether a man be supported by patron or client, if he himself wants courage.
    • Plautus, Mostellaria, II. 1. 64
  • Bonus animus in mala re, dimidium est mali.
    • Courage in danger is half the battle.
    • Plautus, Pseudolus, I. 5. 37
  • Non solum taurus ferit uncis cornibus hostem,
    Verum etiam instanti læsa repugnat ovis.
    • Not only does the bull attack its foe with its crooked horns, but the injured sheep will fight its assailant.
    • Sextus Propertius, Elegiæ, II. 5. 19
  • Cowards may fear to die; but courage stout,
    Rather than live in snuff, will be put out.
    • Sir Walter Raleigh, the night before he died. Bayley's Life of Raleigh, p. 157
  • C'est dans les grands dangers qu'on voit les grands courages.
  • Virtus in astra tendit, in mortem timor.
    • Courage leads to heaven; fear, to death.
    • Seneca, Hercules Œtæus, LXXI
  • Fortuna opes auferre, non animum potest.
    • Fortune can take away riches, but not courage.
    • Seneca, Medea, CLXXVI
  • Ei di virilità grave e maturo,
    Mostra in fresco vigor chiome canute.
    • Grave was the man in years, in looks, in word,
      His locks were gray, yet was his courage green.
    • Torquato Tasso, Gerusalemme, I. 53
  • Quod sors feret feremus æquo animo.
    • Whatever chance shall bring, we will bear with equanimity.
    • Terence, Phormio, I. 2. 88

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)[edit]

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
  • Be courageous. Be independent. Only remember where the true courage and independence come from.
  • This is the way to cultivate courage: First, by standing firm on some conscientious principle, some law of duty. Next, by being faithful to truth and right on small occasions and common events. Third, by trusting in God for help and power.
  • Conscience in the soul is the root of all true courage. If a man would be brave, let him learn to obey his conscience.
  • A Christian builds his fortitude on a better foundation than stoicism; he is pleased with every thing that happens, because he knows it could not happen unless it first pleased God, and that which pleases Him must be best.
  • Consult the honor of religion more, and your personal safety less. Is it for the honor of religion (think you) that Christians should be as timorous as hares to start at every sound?
  • Bear your burden manfully. Boys at school, young men who have exchanged boyish liberty for serious business, — all who have got a task to do, a work to finish — bear the burden till God gives the signal for repose — till the work is done, and the holiday is fairly earned.
  • Every man must bear his own burden, and it is a fine thing to see any one trying to do it manfully; carrying his cross bravely, silently, patiently, and in a way which makes you hope that he has taken for his pattern the greatest of all sufferers.
  • Gird your hearts with silent fortitude, Suffering, yet hoping all things.
  • There is a contemptibly quiet path for all those who are afraid of the blows and clamor of opposing forces. There is no honorable fighting for a man who is not ready to forget that he has a head to be battered and a name to be bespattered. Truth wants no champion who is not as ready to be struck as to strike for her.
  • Providence has clearly ordained that the only path fit and salutary for man on earth is the path of persevering fortitude — the unremitting struggle of deliberate self-preparation and humble but active reliance on Divine aid.
  • In the whole range of earthly experience, no quality is more attractive and ennobling than moral courage. Like that mountain of rock which towers aloft in the Irish Sea, the man possessed of this principle is unmoved by the swelling surges which fret and fume at his feet. And yet, unlike that same Ailsa Craig, he is sensitive beyond measure to every adverse influence — battling against it, and triumphing over it by a power which proceeds from God's throne, and pervades his entire being.
  • Whenever you do what is holy, be of good cheer, knowing that God Himself takes part with rightful courage.
  • What we want is men with a little courage to stand up for Christ. When Christianity wakes up, and every child that belongs to the Lord is willing to speak for Him, is willing to work for Him, and, if need be, willing to die for Him, then Christianity will advance, and we shall see the work of the Lord prosper.
  • To do an evil action is base; to do a good action without incurring danger is common enough; but it is the part of a good man to do great and noble deeds, though he risks every thing.
  • My dear friend, venture to take the wind on your face for Christ.
  • Be not cast down. If ye saw Him who is standing on the shore, holding out His arms to welcome you to land, ye would wade, not only through a sea of wrongs, but through hell itself to be with Him.

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