Everyday Courage

by Belinda Munoz on May 10, 2010


Courage is the first of a series of five topics for Momalom’s Five for Ten.

It’s tempting to ascribe the word courage to those who make bold statements and big moves.  The word evokes sheroes and heroes risking their lives, their future and their reputation for a grand and noble cause.

Yet I wonder, are bold statements and big moves, courageous though they may be, necessarily irreprehensible?  Is courage always commendable?


A gutsy  “I’ll love you for all of eternity” on the first date may feel sincere to the person saying it in the heat of the moment.  While it’s likely that the person it’s being told to will have a range of reactions (where’s the hidden camera?  run home fast, change name and locks?  better yet move to another city?) before a response forms in his/her thought bubble, the multiple holes one could poke through such a proclamation don’t make it any less courageous.

Images of Martin Luther King, Jr. on many a stage flash across the screen proclaiming bold statements about love, freedom, humanity and civilization.  His sweeping rhetoric, urgent yet timeless, has long endured the peak of the civil rights movement.  The man who said “at the center of non-violence stands the principle of love” spoke powerful words that spurred new generations of activists who continue the quest for equality and peace.  Courageous words?  Undeniably.

Meanwhile, others would say someone like David Duke has the courage to define civil rights differently.  A longtime Klan leader and now international spokesman for Holocaust denial who argued loudly against lowering the flag when Dr. King was assassinated, Duke has his own bold proclamations to make.  “I don’t call myself a white supremacist. I’m a civil rights activist concerned about European-American rights.” Are these courageous words?  It warrants a discussion.  However, I can think of at least a hundred savvy, inclusive and aware people in my melting pot of a world with their own equally courageous (and some very colorful) language in response to Mr. Duke’s statement.


But what about actions?  What about scaling the tallest of mountains?  What about dumpster diving, the freegans‘ preferred way to forage for free sustenance?  Is flying a plane without sufficient training courageous, or foolish, or a death wish?

Is there any courage in these bold moves?  If it’s all a matter of perspective, then absolutely.  Testing one’s body, spirit and gag reflex in the case of freegans, is indeed a courageous act regardless of the perceived or actual value it brings.

What about flying a plane and crashing it on a landmark building all in the supposed name of religion?  Is that courageous?  Without knowing he was making a statement that was perceived to have been out of line, Bill Maher, comedian and television host, was fired from his gig because he happened to agree with a conservative political commentator that the 9/11 terrorists were not cowards.

“We have been the cowards. Lobbing cruise missiles from two thousand miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building. Say what you want about it. Not cowardly. You’re right”, Maher said to Dinesh D’Souza.  Apparently he wasn’t supposed to speak his mind that boldly on his own talk show.  How ironic that he became a victim of political incorrectness, on a show called Politically Incorrect, in a country where freedom of speech is boldly proclaimed to be of utmost value.  Courage to speak your mind freely in a free country apparently comes with a price tag.


In the balance between good and the not-so-good, it seems courage sways both ways depending on perspective that propels it to manifest into a statement or an action.  Courage alone does not lead to choosing positivity.

While the dictionary may have simple definitions of the word, clearly, delving a bit deeper into the meaning, interpretation and application of the word courage is not without its jagged edge.  Standing on its precipice, its neutrality cowers in the face of its potential to cut and draw blood.  On many occasions, it has provoked, hurt, inflamed or debased others.

As for me, I see courage as more of an everyday occurrence.  An everyday impulse, necessary for survival that pads the blows of the rigors of daily life.

It takes courage to manufacture momentum where there is none; to hear the silence as well as to sift through the noise in order to heed the message; to witness action and inaction and decide where one fits.

It takes courage to assess capabilities fairly; to accept limitations and strengths and then to do something about both.

Courage is in marching on despite the lack of a paved path.  It’s in trusting the unknown when the known does not feel right.  It’s in questioning the answers when the answers need to be tested, reassessed or revitalized.

Courage is in being open, exposed, defenseless.  It’s in being undone, rough, coloring outside the lines.  It’s in acknowledging mistakes, especially ones that leave an indelible mark, an unshakable regret.  Courage is in accepting what’s done and in moving on despite a troubled mind, a sagging spirit and a heavy heart.

Courage is in forgiving and in asking for forgiveness.  It’s in offering help and in asking for help.  It’s in looking past the surface and in seeing beyond differences.

Courage is in leaving home and venturing into a big bold world to shed a little light and a little dark on a sheltered and seeking mind, spirit and heart.

Courage is in coming home to those you love the most; whose absence, likely hanging in the back of your mind, would make you question more than anything if you could ever, ever have the courage to go on.


What about you?  What are your thoughts on courage?  Is it a good word I’ve somehow managed to sully in about one thousand words?


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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Clara May 10, 2010 at 5:38 am

Great post, with lots to think about. Thanks for sharing it with us.


2 Fr. Michael May 10, 2010 at 6:16 am

You raise some great questions about how one defines courage. My own spur of the moment definition: Courage is the strength to make difficult decisions based on moral principles that SERVE THE COMMON GOOD. I think the latter part of my definition is key: it’s about serving the common good. Dr. Martin Luther King is a great example: what he did was serving the common good of society. So many other examples abound.

Hope all is well!


3 Tracy Todd May 10, 2010 at 6:26 am

Courage is a word that all humans can relate to. Courage is something we all need to live our own reality and face our own daily challenges. Courage is so unique to each of us.

Thank you for sharing your perspective.


4 John Sherry May 10, 2010 at 8:51 am

What a well crafted post Belinda. from top to bottom it is an easy read with lots of questions to aid self enquiry. There are so many interpretations and insights on courage I’ve had to read it 5 times and I’m still figuring out my own. It takes great writing to acheive that in such a short space of words. My favourite point is “courage is being open, exposed, defenseless” To be vulnerable this way yet standing strong is certainly courage in its truest form for me. Tremendous post thank you for your wisdom.

Now….back to reading for time six!!


5 Amber May 10, 2010 at 10:38 am

Belinda, you hit on so many important points. Courage is a relative word–its definition shifts based on an individual’s perspective.

Interestingly enough, my husband and I were talking about intelligence agencies outside the US. They are doing their job when they seek out and kill potential threats just as much as the CIA and FBI are doing theirs when they do the same thing. It is scary and important to think about.

I am always amazed by your thinking and writing.


6 Rudri May 10, 2010 at 10:57 am


Nice synthesis on the word courage. I grappled with this word over the weekend and decided courage is defined in different ways depending on who you ask. I think there is courage in everyday things and some of us seek courage on a grander level like astronauts, police officers, firefighters, etc.

After thinking about the subject, I came to the conclusion that I haven’t been courageous, at least not in the way Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. have been. I know there is everyday courage and we all participate in that, but when I think about courage I think about individuals who advocate for a change for the greater good. People who sacrifice their life to help humankind get to a better place.

Thanks for the post. As always, a pleasure to read.


7 Patty - Why Not Start Now? May 10, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Hi Belinda – I really like how you’ve taken such a big word and looked at it from so many different angles. It was a great read. First thing that comes to mind when I think about courage is the cowardly lion in Wizard of Oz. He thought he wasn’t courageous, but in the end he realized personal courage was a lot more complicated than a simple definition. Not that I always base my philosophies on fantasy characters, but I suspect he was on to something. Courage is personal, and what’s courageous to one person may not be so to another. In fact, for some people, just getting out of bed in the morning is an act of courage.


8 BigLittleWolf May 10, 2010 at 12:50 pm

This is a beautiful and thoughtful piece of writing, Belinda. Courage is all these things – and your point about political correctness, is well taken. Sometimes speaking one’s mind is no small act of courage.

Personally, I think about strength and wisdom more frequently than courage. I call upon them more often. They feel tangible and necessary, especially raising children. Before I became a mother, I was certainly more fearless, yet I don’t think I was particularly courageous. Having children changes your perception of life’s fragility. How precious it is. How we must honor it if we possibly can – and the ways we protect it and nurture it often demand daily acts of strength and wisdom. Is that courage? I don’t know.


9 Justine May 10, 2010 at 1:41 pm

I am so glad to have found your site via Momalom.

This is beautiful, Belinda. Courage is so many things. The big things. The little things. The unexpected things. You’ve encapsulated most of them here so well, and while all of them resonated with me, what you said towards the end has defined my life the most:

“Courage is in leaving home and venturing into a big bold world to shed a little light and a little dark on a sheltered and seeking mind, spirit and heart.

Courage is in coming home to those you love the most; whose absence, likely hanging in the back of your mind, would make you question more than anything if you could ever, ever have the courage to go on.”

I couldn’t have said it any better. Thank you for this.


10 Kristen @ Motherese May 10, 2010 at 1:45 pm

I think you and I have similar takes on the idea of courage, but yours is presented far more eloquently! I also appreciate your difficult, but necessary (I think) questions about the context in which courage takes place. Your points about David Duke and the perpetrators of 9/11 make me reflect on the importance of setting and audience when making blanket statements such as “It is brave to speak your mind.”

Thanks, as always, Belinda, for the delicious and nutritious food for thought!


11 Eva @ EvaEvolving May 10, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Wow. This last section really speaks to me. So beautiful, such incredible examples of courage. I love the idea of everyday courage. It’s not just the heroic stories we hear, it’s the little, brave things we do every day.

“Courage is in marching on despite the lack of a paved path. It’s in trusting the unknown when the known does not feel right.” Yes! This is like you tiptoed into my dreams, my unconscious, and are speaking to my heart. I will remember this one.


12 Leslie May 10, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Belinda, your last line is so real – and so terrifying. It reminds me of one of Anne Lamott’s many bits of wisdom in Operating Instructions – that having a child gives you so much more to lose. I’d extend it to those you come home to. It doesn’t feel like a choice, but it takes courage nonetheless.


13 Corinne May 10, 2010 at 6:26 pm

I think this might be one of my favorites from the Courage bag! So well put, and so many absolutely frightening things that take place on a daily basis that we do not give credit to. So well written & beautiful at the same time as thought provoking.


14 Wilma Ham May 10, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Courage for me is like Patty said personal and it was for Martin Luther King and Gandhi as well, I am sure.
Courage for me is stepping out in the face of no-agreement to change the status quo and it certainly can be a big or a small thing, courage has no measurement for me, there is no big of little courage, there is just courage to have something different happen. Without courage life will never change.


15 Shawna May 10, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Yours is about the thirtieth post on courage I have read today thanks to Momalom and their Five for Ten project. Some of them I have agreed with outright, stories of personal courage, some I have thought that the courage was misplaced, and some stories of courage leave me thinking of the people on the receiving end of such moments of “courage”. Thank you for writing this post reminding us that courage has such different meaning and indeed perspective for all of us.


16 TheKitchenWitch May 11, 2010 at 7:07 am

This is beautiful! The point about forging on, even when there’s no paved path…that one really resonated with me. I’m always afraid to make a mistake, so I don’t often wander off the clear and easiest path.


17 Sarah May 11, 2010 at 11:36 am

Belinda, this is wonderful.

“Is there any courage in these bold moves? If it’s all a matter of perspective, then absolutely.”

Perspective, yes. As I’ve mentioned in response to a few of the posts out there, I struggled with my own perception of courage as I began drafting my post. I have made many bold moves in my life and I’ve always sort of viewed them as stupidity. But if I tweak my perception just enough I can see that surviving the stupidity is really where I’ve gained my courage, and for that I must be thankful and proud.

I love love love “courage is forgiveness” because in my day to day life I feel like nothing is more true. Forgiving “them” and forgiving me.


18 Jenn M May 11, 2010 at 4:06 pm

I love that you looked at this from such a different angle- to think that in many ways, courage is in the eye of the beholder. Thanks for giving me a different lens to view this topic through!


19 Baker May 12, 2010 at 9:52 am

This is a really unique way of looking at courage, very nicely written as always. Courage for me happens when I am feeling inspired to act on something new. The courage allows me to take action on that inspired feeling in a manner that is in alignement with my creativity at the moment.


20 Tony Single May 12, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Beautifully expressed, Belinda. What else can I possibly say? I have tried to fathom what courage is, as I have with many things. Here’s a quote about that which I have admired for a while…

“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” – Erich Fromm


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