Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Courage and cowardice - subjects that are of great interest to fighting activities. Subjects that are of great interest to politicians, the military, law enforcement, society ... to all of us. Subjects that are judgement-laden, and subjects that most of us are blissfully ignorant of as we judge ourselves and others.

Courage has been defined as doing something even though fearful.

Cprl Ben Roberts-Smith received the highest award in the Australian honours system, the Victoria Cross for Australia and later the Medal for Gallantry. Gallantry is defined as courageous. Courage, bravery, gallantry are all included in the descriptions for these honours, however, Cprl Ben Roberts-Smith explains that when he engaged in the actions for which he was awarded those honours, fear was absent as training kicked in.

No fear, no courage. No fear, no bravery. No fear, no gallantry. No fear, none of those by definition.

No fear, just training. Training is designed to eliminate courage, bravery, and gallantry, by definition.

I am braver, more courageous, and more gallant than Cprl Ben Roberts-Smith ... by definition :). You see, I have been diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder, therefore, I live most my life in perpetual fear, however, I do things, accomplish things, get things done despite anxiety-fear. Despite sometimes crippling anxiety-fear. Therefore, by definition, I am braver, more courageous, and more gallant than Cprl Ben Roberts-Smith.

But your anxiety-fear is not associated with life threatening situations I hear you protest. Do you think your amygdala differentiates between life threatening situations and not when you have an anxiety and/or panic disorder? No. Your amygdala goes into protection mode when it detects a threat ... like picking up kitty litter, visiting the adopted nieces that you love, visiting your mother who is in a palliative care unit in hospital, attending a coffee with a friend ...

My point is to expose the fallacy that is courage (and later cowardice). It is a concept that we embrace that reveals more about us than it does about the supposed courageous person.

There is a wonderful book, The Mystery of Courage, that is a meditation on courage. Within its contents the author writes about 'courageous acts.' Courageous acts are what we consider courageous irrespective of the actors motivations. Courage is something that seems to be divorced from the actor.

There is a lot more to courage and cowardice, however, fodder for future posts.

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