Growing Courageous Kids

(& Parents!)

Courage v. Confidence

on March 25, 2009

The Path to Personal Courage

What do you think about cultivating courage in your personal actions? How necessary is a high level of confidence to the task?

An element that is extremely useful for understanding concepts that are life-transforming comes from Thomas Leonard’s idea of coaching distinctions. Here we are looking at a post by Tom Morris using the famous analogy of Plato’s Cave to explore the difference between confidence and courage.

The only way out of the cave was well known to Plato, and was highly regarded by his student, Aristotle. It is the path of personal courage. Aristotle understood courage as a primary virtue, or strength, in human life. He saw it as a midway point between the extremes and vices of timidity and temerity – or the overly cautious capitulation to fear, on the one hand, and the irrational disregard of danger, on the other. Courage recognizes challenge, understands risk, and while fully cognizant of danger, moves forward with the insight that the best path to the future demands positive action now.

We’ve heard a lot of talk recently about the absence of confidence to be found throughout America, and our pressing need for much more. Confidence is an attitude expectant of success and is a universal facilitator of achievement in situations of uncertainty, as many of the great philosophers have understood. We do indeed need more of this quality than we’re demonstrating right now across the culture. But the virtue of courage can be even more important in a situation of dark threats and daunting anxieties. Deep within the cave, our first need is to be brave.

A courageous person does what’s right rather than what’s easy. He does what’s needed rather than what’s expected. He’s willing to take a chance to make a positive difference. He’s not rash in his actions, or careless in his commitments. And yet he’s not so cautious as to remain trapped in chains of fear. A confident person believes that his actions will succeed. A courageous person may start out only hoping that they will. He does what he thinks he should do, regardless of his degree of confidence. And then, quite often and wonderfully, the actions arising from that courage help to build up and justify the confidence that then works to support him as he goes on.

I love the distinction regarding how a courageous person may not have the confidence to act, yet still does; that courage compels one to move forward in the face of anxiety and fear; that the same courage then can increase our confidence when one is on the other side of the fear by stepping through inertia and moving forward.

What is one way that you acted courageously recently?

How do you instill this courage in your children?

Please share your comments below.

Have a courageous day!

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3 responses to “Courage v. Confidence

  1. I completely agree with the distinctions you made between courage and confidence. Many times we ascribe courage to an act that does not require courage. One way to test if courage is required is the presence of two coditions:

    Courage is required:
    1. if a person has to confront some fear.
    2. if there is some cost to the person acting.

    I go into more details as well as tease out what I call the Five Cornerstones of Courage in my leadership book, READY,BEGIN! PRACTICAL STRATEGIES FOR CULTIVATING COURAGE.

    • Hi Larry,

      That is awesome that you have a book on Cultivating Courage! One of my favorite phrases. Confidence v. Courage is an interesting distinction to explore.

      I definitely use the word courage in a looser sense than the traditional idea of heroic action…or maybe am just broadening the idea of heroic action 🙂

      Will have to check out your book,

      Michelle

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