Opinion—Bravery vs. Courage
By Kim Ousley
Editor’s note—Views expressed in the following op-ed do not necessarily reflect those of Church of God Ministries, Inc., or its affiliates. We publish op-ed features to provoke thought, stimulate healthy discussion, and inspire us to be with Jesus, become like Jesus, and do what Jesus did. We’ve asked to hear from a diverse range of voices across the Church of God movement. This op-ed features one of these voices.
Faith over fear. This mantra is printed on shirts, hats, and accessories. Right now, our present state of existence involves chaos between a national medical crisis and political strife on all sides. Just leaving the house is considered a courageous act. A contagious illness has kept us inside for almost two years. Yet somehow we have to summon up the courage to continue moving forward each day and continue to remain focused on God, and his protection and fierce love for each of us. Conquering our fears means putting our trust in the unseen and unknown, which leads me to consider what it truly means to be courageous.
Consider the following synonyms for the word courage:
**Bottle (British slang), bravery, courageousness, daring, daringness, dauntlessness, doughtiness, fearlessness, gallantry, greatheartedness, guts, gutsiness, hardihood, heart, heroism, intestinal fortitude, intrepidity, intrepidness, moxie, nerve, prowess, stoutness, valor, virtue (Meriam-Webster.com/thesaurus/…).
Maybe you can think of a few more synonyms that have been used to convey courage. Often courage seems to have been used to mean the same thing as bravery. But the individual definitions of the two words show a different side to each.
What if courage isn’t something you already have, but instead something you can take or stir up? The prefix coeur (French) refers to the heart. Courage is defined as not so much as a quality or pre-existing characteristic, but as a choice. One chooses to persevere in spite of circumstance. Perhaps courage may be driven by a cause.
Bravery, from the Italian word bravo, communicates boldness and might be used to describe a “wild savage.” It’s a quality, not a state of mind. It doesn’t need a cause or purpose to awaken it.
Bravery is the ability to confront something painful, difficult, or dangerous without any fear. Courage, on the other hand, is the ability to confront something painful, difficult, or dangerous despite fear.
You need courage to begin something. Courage gives you the ability to put aside your fear of failure and take the first steps. It helps you overcome the fear of rejection and engage your stakeholders. Courage allows you to attempt things that you may have not tried before, regardless of the fear of looking foolish.
Think of Moses and the many times he faced fear with courage. It’s not that he wasn’t ever afraid. Moses was standing in front of a king, who was determined to banish all the slaves. Appearing before God must have evoked some level of fear; after all, God appeared as a burning bush that would not burn up. Jochebed, the mother of Moses, faced the fear of her son being killed. She put him in a basket and floated him down river. There may have been dangerous creatures in the waters—how terrifying! Sure, the daughter of the king found him and made him her son. But, his biological mother, who gave up raising him to save him, did get to continue to watch him grow up into a man of God. Dealing with these emotions requires courage, not necessarily bravery.
No matter the circumstances, God knows we’re not brave in all situations. He knew we needed encouragement to keep going through the darkness even when we could not see how it would all turn out down the road. God used Moses, a simple man of many faults and complexities, to serve the people of God. He can use you and me, too, whether we are afraid of little or much. His strength in us provides the courage we need. Will we accept His gift?
But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.” —2 Chronicles 15:7 ESV