Courage in Adversity

by on 26th April 2018
Courage in Adversity

Extract from Overcoming Adversity: Conquering Life's Challenges

Adversity is exhausting. It uses up much of our emotional strength, leaving us overwhelmed by fear and unable to move forward. After all, we need to be safe and take care of ourselves if we are to survive in times of difficulty. Finding the courage to go forward when the futureis unknown and there are no guarantees is frightening. To do so involves a deliberate and courageous choice on our part. We venture forward knowing that to remain stuck in a place of fear, unhappiness or danger is to leave ourselves unfulfilled or at risk for further harm.

It takes courage, but courage is complicated. Courage is the blend of the emotion of fear as well as the cognitive aspect of understanding the risks involved with pursuing an action. When we choose courage we understand that we might not succeed in reaching our goals. But we pursue these goals anyway because we have weighed the situation against our value system. The desire to have a better life helps give us the motivation to move outside our comfort zone and not give in to our natural risk-avoidant tendencies.

Our support systems help us by providing encouragement to succeed when we don’t have the confidence, or if we question whether we deserve to have a better life. Others in our social network can provide strategies on managing fear, and contribute resources that will improve our skills and ability in reaching in our goals. They are there to help pick us up when we fall, help keep our discouragement from ratcheting out of control, and offer alternative pathways to our goals when we get discouraged. Our spirituality helps us hold onto faith that we are worthy, and that our conflicted feelings are a normal part of being human. At a time when so much in our lives seems uncertain, spirituality helps calm our fears. It helps us feel confident and strong, and that we can do what we previously had believed we could not do.

We all need courage when we are struggling with a conflict. When we make the calculated choice to act courageously, we are rewarded with belief in our ability to make decisions that will help us find resilience in our adversity.

Why is Courage so Important?

The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, believed courage to be the most important quality in a man. "Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible.” When we are courageous, we step outside our comfort zone of predictability and familiarity and are exposed to new ideas. We can take in new information and broaden our understanding of the world, an important tool in overcoming adversity.

Having courage enables us to stay our course when external circumstances threaten to challenge our well-being. It empowers us to confront problems head on, even if having doubts, rather than risk experiencing fear, resignation and victimization. Through courage, we are better able to control our destiny and honor who we are and in what we believe. We have a chance to avoid even greater problems that might have resulted had we not been courageous.

We develop a psychological muscle when we push through fear. This muscle helps us when we need the strength and resilience to overcome or avoid adversity. The more we exercise this muscle, the more our self-confidence and faith will grow. We will feel empowered to confront problems head on and courageous in challenging times that fill us with pain and fear.

What Courage is Not

We are not born with courage. 

There are no courageous people because courage is not a fixed trait. It is not in our DNA, and despite how it might appear individuals are not genetically predisposed to either fear or courage. Rather, courage is an attribute that can be developed, and everyone has the equal potential to be courageous.


If courage were an instinctive response, like breathing, swallowing or blinking, we would respond to all events fearlessly. Our reactions would be consistent and our feelings predictable. There would be no emotional meaning to our response, just as there is none to our blinking while reading this text. Instead, courage is reactive and differs for each event. Our ability to respond courageously will depend on many factors, including the amount of fear we are experiencing, our self-confidence in being able to respond, and the meaning the event holds for us.


As the proverb aptly states, "Fear and courage are brothers.” Courage exists because fear exists. Courage is about recognizing our fear, yet finding the strength to push through it. Fear of the situation will be felt psychologically or physiologically — as in anxiety, perspiration, or increased pulse or blood pressure — when we are courageous.

Thrill Seeking.

Courage must be done for a meaningful purpose. To act in a way for the purpose of demonstrating bravado is to miss an important component of courage, which is fear. If the motivation is personal enjoyment, such as engaging in high-sensation, adrenaline rush inducing behaviors, the act is not courageous.


Courage cannot be forced because of pressure from others. Courage is an individual decision to devote ourselves to something bigger than what we currently encounter. When we exhibit courage, it is about opening ourselves more fully to our personal potential in a thoughtful way.