What comes to mind when you hear about Parkour or roof jumping? After being shocked and surprised that someone is jumping from one roof to another hoping they make it, do you want to say "Man, he's got some courage"? Or what about "That guys has some guts"?
What about the scenario of a lifeguard jumping into a stormy tide, risking their life to save another? Would you compliment their family members saying "Your son has guts" or "Your son has a lot of courage to risk his life."?
Some people define courage as being able to face danger or possible harm. Is that all there is to being courageous? Parkour is definitely a moment where people face danger and possible harm, and the same goes with lifeguarding. So what is the difference between the two? Why do we not have the same response?
Courage, or bravery, is a virtue that prepares us to confront difficulties, dangers, and obstacles that we find in life. It helps us overcome the fear we experience. But the distinguishing characteristic to make the act virtuous and not just an expression of “a lot of guts” is that the act is done in defense of, or looking for, a greater good. That one little, but great detail, is what can make an act truly brave or not.
Here are some examples of a greater good: the life of another, defending the value of life, defending God and faith, following your conscience. There are so many examples in history of people who faced danger in order to protect a greater good. More notable figures are people like Martin Luther King Jr. ,Rosa Parks, St. Joan of Arc, Sophie Scholl, St. Maximilian Kolbe, etc. But don’t downplay the people who in everyday life are courageous in small, but no less important, ways. A college student who decides to remain chaste until marriage despite the criticism he receives from others. The married couple that is open to life in their marriage despite the comments and looks from others. The girl who stands up and speaks out to defend the reputation of another when people are spreading gossip.
So, do you want to have a little more courage? Start within yourself and making a good examination of conscience. You have to have a lot of courage to look at yourself and call your sins by their name. Then you can work on other things, like doing what is right for others and putting yourself last. It takes a courageous person to follow their conscience always, despite what society says, and what everyone else does.