What is courage? Military types define it as unwavering loyalty and dedication to duty, especially in the line of fire. The rest of us define it as something like, 'sticking to your guns no matter what the odds' (another military metaphor). We have all heard the saying 'have the courage of your convictions.' But what does this mean?
In the movie 'The Four Feathers', adapted from the book of the same name, a young British man joins the army with the intent of serving a year, resigning his commission, and thereby doing his duty to his family, and his father. At the time (1884) many British families enrolled in the same regiment, generation after generation, and it was regarded as a family obligation.
The young man in question, Harry Faversham, is told that his regiment is going to the Sudanese desert to protect a British fort under attack. The movie does not make explicitly clear the reasons, but Harry resigns his commission. He does not see the point of fighting in a Sudanese desert halfway around the world and what that has to do with the British Empire. He's also afraid of combat(?) but this does not seem consistent with his character and behavior in the film. Anyway, he resigns his commission just before the regiment is to post out. His friends in the regiment send him four white feathers, a sign of cowardice. His fiance abandons him (understandable at the time, for a woman's position was utterly dependent upon her husband). The movie is about redemption and courage.
Harry goes to the Sudan, as a civilian, and helps his friend from the regiment escape from prison. He also warns the regiment of an attack. The theme of the movie is that Harry redeems himself by showing courage in the face of danger, and doing all he can to help his friends, and thereby the regiment, and England. He is accepted back into society and marries his fianc e. There it is, all wrapped up nicely.
I will use the movie as a jumping off point for a discussion of courage and integrity. Whether or not my statements agree precisely with the intent of the author of The Four Feathers is to me irrelevant at this point, so dont get your knickers in a twist!
Is it really courageous to abandon one's convictions? If Harrys motivations were based purely upon a desire to go along with the mores of the time, then did he really demonstrate personal courage in the Sudan? Harry may have shown physical courage, but is physical courage the same as personal integrity? I would argue not. I would argue that if Harry truly believed that fighting was wrong, then he merely acquiesced to the prevailing sentiment and gave up his personal honor.
It is easy to go with the flow of mass consciousness, despite your true beliefs. During any of the American wars of the 20th century, for example, it was easier to enlist than to be a draft dodger, or a conscientious objector. Ill never forget a bloke Ill call Joe back in my college days during the Vietnam war. Joe was a dope smoking hippie, and antiwar. As soon as he was drafted, however, he reported without objection. We all saw him walking down the hall, his head shaven, carrying a duffel bag.
During those days a draftee was regarded by society as far more courageous than the person who stood up for his personal convictions and refused to enter the war even if you never saw any fighting even though a conscientious objector was ostracized from mainstream society, and, perhaps, was unable to even get a job. To me that shows at least as much courage as going out into the battlefield, knowing that you are supported by your mates, your military, and almost the entire society of your country.
Warriors will object to this, but then, warriors love to fight and justify their position as warriors, and they will castigate those who do not, even for legitimate reasons of honor, care to fight.
Fighting is itself an inverted concept that arises from the consciousness of scarcity. If there is plenty for all, then of course there is no need to fight for anything. One might fight another because of a belief, but beliefs are just ideas. In a world of prosperity, ideas cannot take food out of your stomach or destroy the house you have built. Only in an environment of scarcity can that occur. And an environment of scarcity is a direct result of the consciousness of scarcity. As we point out in these essays over and over again, an environment of scarcity reflects the consciousness that created it. So in a sane society, there is never a need for war. Only in an insane society, or a society in which individuals are divorced from their true selves, is war a viable option. For it forcibly takes resources and/or territory from another, for personal gain.
So what is cowardice? What is courage?
Cowardice is usually defined as shirking danger or abandoning one's post, especially when one has agreed to fulfill a responsibility. In other words, courage usually involves the facing of unpleasantness. Hanging in there despite your fear is regarded as a badge of honor. But of course,
If Harry resigned his commission because he was afraid of combat, for example, one might say he was a coward because he refused to face an uncomfortable situation. But what merit is there is facing something that feels rotten? There is none EXCEPT that it may suit anothers purpose.
There is another perfectly inverted idea used to justify war that says a military force protects a country from attack, and to refuse to serve lets everyone down. But we know from our study of universal principles that this assertion is patently false, and that it is not possible to protect yourself from anything. Christ understood this principle when he advised us to 'turn the other cheek' to that which is unwanted.
I will not argue the causes or motivations for war, other than to say there is an awful lot of money made by a very few during its prosecution. Politics is always subservient to economics, at least on this planet where the mass consciousness is mired in scarcity, and has created economies accordingly. When a country is at war, the people of that country have almost nothing to do with the causes and motivations for it. Wars are created and fought between governments, or an economic elite that controls the political players. A government is itself a small elite, whether elected or not. I don't want to turn this into a dissertation on politics, but almost all governments that have ever existed in the past 5,000 years have formed because of self interest. Governments almost always form from an impulse to accumulate wealth or resources. Now one might object that the U.S. government was formed exclusively from a desire for freedom from tyranny, but if one says that, one does not understand the economic reasons for the formation of the U.S. government, or the Revolutionary War. These motivations were principled of course, but also resulted from the (perceived) economic strangulation of the colonies by the government of Britain.
So let's get back to our question: What is courage?
In the case of Harry Faversham, or a conscientious objector in any of our American wars, to refuse to 'fight for one's country' is considered an act of cowardice. And it probably IS cowardice, if one truly believes that fighting is necessary and one does not participate! But it's not cowardice because you have refused to face danger. It's cowardice because you have abandoned YOUR OWN honor.
Society regards cowardice as thinking, speaking and acting in ways which do not agree with the prevailing mores. There is a predominant vibration associated with every national consciousness. This powerful vibration has a tendency to entrain individual ones. I call this the 'group think.' It is a sort of lowest common denominator of what the majority of citizens in a society agree upon. But adherence or non–adherence to the majority opinion should have no bearing on the definition of one's character. In America, we admire the guy who stands up against the odds (or we used to, anyway). So why don't we admire the conscientious objector who, against everyone, stands up for what he believes in?
Is it courageous to keep doing something you're no longer in alignment with, or just stupidity? Do you have the guts to change gears, despite what everyone else says? These questions must be answered when looking at the idea of courage. Physical danger is much too limiting a concept to define it.
I would say that facing danger is not the measure of courage. Standing up for one's beliefs is the measure of courage. If this means fighting in a war, or refusing to fight in a war, there is no difference.
Like all concepts, courage is a limiting belief. Take the following example: Joe Doakes is all fired up for war. He enlists, gets into battle, and sees that the ideals he thought he was fighting for are an illusion. He perceives that the war is really not his fight, that it is a conflict between people he does not know, and for political, economic, or ethical reasons, he can no longer agree with the conduct of it. He sees that his army is simply invading another country and killing its citizens, for reasons he can no longer support. So he quits. He resigns.
Society says : "Deserter! Traitor! Coward! You should stick it out because you gave your word!" You are no longer courageous, because you quit, even though, a second before, you were a hero. But who decides all this? Other people. You are still the same person. You have simply made a free will choice that now happens to disagree with the majority. The commonly accepted idea of courage says that you must continue despite your disagreement. This is completely limiting, for you are a conscious being, unlimited in your choices. To force yourself to adhere to ONE choice is now not in alignment with who you are. So at this point, your honor and your conviction demand that you no longer take no part in the war. Now, you must still face danger, just a different kind of danger.
Can you do it?
When discussing courage, the facing of danger is not the issue. Adherence to your own beliefs should be the yardstick. And since the process of thought is invisible to objective scrutiny, it is impossible for anyone to correctly judge your motivations. Of course people judge you all the time anyway, but whether or not you listen is a function of your own personal integrity.
Your alignment or nonalignment to anything is the true reason to do, or refuse to do, anything. Does your decision make you feel good, or lousy? If you go along with the crowd to avoid censure and still feel rotten, your vibrational orientation will manifest uncomfortable experiences, no matter what environment you find yourself in. If you are aligned, you will manifest wanted experiences, no matter the environment. Thats the Law of Vibration and the Law of Attraction at work again. You are safe as long as you are true to yourself.
Courage is being true to yourself, whether or not your choices are consistent or inconsistent. Consistent or inconsistent are labels others assign to you, if they don't like what you're doing. So what? Is it better to be consistent and miserable, in order to satisfy others? That's a choice we all have to make as individuals. Some people give, and give, and give, even though they are worn to a frazzle. Such people are so busy trying to satisfy the needs or demands of others that they lose themselves in the process.
Courage is being true to yourself, no matter the presence or absence of danger. Courage is having the guts to act upon what YOU believe in, not the beliefs of some government, religion, opinion leader, family member, or the guys in the local bar who think you're a coward for adhering to your principles.