Free Definition Essay - The Meaning of Courage


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The Meaning of Courage


In life there are many terms that are relative to individual cultures. That means that the definition is different depending on the culture's location and its persons believe. The definition for one such term, courage, as defined by both Daniel Webster and Funk & Wagnalls is "That quality of mind or spirit enabling one to meet danger or difficulties/ opposition with firmness/fearlessness." The words that make courage a relative term are danger and opposition.

The definitions of those words are what determine if a person or an act is considered to be foolhardy, courageous, or cowardice. Those labels change from society to society because people possess varying ideas as to what is danger and opposition means. For example, there are many types of people who encounter danger regularly like police, firefighters, cultural tribes, religious groups, teachers, advocates, doctors and nurses, criminals, and everyday people. Contrasting the difference in the type of danger encountered by each group shows what makes courage different. The difference between the danger for the police and the danger for the criminals is that one is done without a valid reason. The danger for the criminals is created by themselves and therefore even though they encounter danger it is not courageous. It on the other hand is either foolhardy or cowardice. Actions like killing sprees or random slashing are considered foolhardy because the persons responsible are taking unnecessary risk. These actions can also be considered to be cowardice because the people responsible are generally either unwilling to face the consequences for their actions or unwilling to face the underlying reasons for their bursts of violence. In my mind and most other westernized cultured people minds, I am correct because criminal acts are not generally accepted nor rewarded in our society. However, in the eyes of a criminal his/her acts are courageous and are accepted and rewarded with some exceptions such as rape.

When we look at actions of some cultural tribes we generally judge their actions towards certain opposition as foolhardy. Actions like hunting styles or tribal initiations are judged to foolhardy because they are things that we as western civilized people do not do. We judge others ways of doing things and we completely ignore the fact that they are customs that have existed for many years and they are necessary for each cultures' survival.

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For example, hunting a lion because he stole a cow might be considered to be beyond courageous because it seems foolish to risk one's life over a cow. Some people might say to just let it go. However, they would be saying this without understanding that the lion would come again and again unless he was stopped the first time. In this case it is not just act of foolishness but one of courage. Another example would be the way that the lion was hunted. We would consider hunting with a spear to be even more foolish because we would expect that if you were to be so foolish as to hunt a lion that you would be better off to use a gun. However, that assumption again goes without having the knowledge and experiences that show why a spear works fine for hunting. We would make that assumption of hunting with a spear to be foolish while the culture that hunts with the spear might classify us as cowards for hunting with a gun.

These different views of courage are generated because of everyone's cultural perspective. Generally when we analyze a situation we do not factor in the fact that we bring our experiences and our personal and cultural beliefs into the picture. That outside importation corrupts our views we start out with predefined notions of what is courage, what are right and wrong, and what makes sense. We sometimes forget that there are a variety of ways to handle a situation and the fact that each culture chooses there own way is what makes up different cultures.


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