The Heart of Courage: 2nd of 6 Heroic Arts


A former Minnesota Vikings coach once observed, "A Minnesotan will give you directions everywhere. Except to his house." "Minnesota Nice" is an interesting phenomenon. It implies that people are helpful, pleasant, and out-going, as long as they aren't impacted or involved at deep, personal levels.

This also is the core idea of "bystander behavior" or the "bystander effect". When people observe behaviors or situations that call for action based on their values, what prevents them from acting on those values?

In the Hero's Question, the Call to Action asked you to critically examine your organization's mission, purpose, and values, and to reflect on behaviors that either supported those values, or that contradicted those values.

This week is the second of a six part series that will assist you in developing the necessary skills to be a somebody who acts on her or his personal and organizational values. A hero. Zeno Franco and Philip Zimbardo identified the key arts necessary to nurture “Heroes-in-Waiting”. They are: Question, Courage, Strength, Speed, Sacrifice, and Team. Today, we focus on Courage.

When we think of the word Courage, we may think of a brave knight who would chance the perilous journey, through blistering cold and scorching desert, traveling for many days and nights, risking life and limb to reach the dragon's keep, where the brave knight would slay the dragon and rescue the princess.

A daunting feat, to be sure. A feat that may turn many would-be heroes to toast.

But, like Shrek and Donkey, is it also Courageous to tame and embrace the dragon? Is it Courageous to tame the fears that burn within us and embrace the challenges we face?

The root of Courage is "cor," or the Latin word for heart. The key to developing Courage is to know what is in your heart, that is, to be honest with yourself.

Courage originally meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” ... We've lost touch with the idea that speaking honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences (good and bad) is the ultimate act of courage.

When you Question the world around you, and you begin to see things that don't fit with your personal values, will you have the Courage to speak honestly and openly, and to involve yourself in a deep, personal way?

Courage is being authentic and real with yourself, and with the people around you. Heroes commit themselves to aligning their hearts, their minds, and their souls. In other words, heroes' actions and words reflect their feelings and thoughts. If something doesn't "feel" right, Courage is the ability to share or voice that feeling. By giving voice to those feelings, you and others are challenged to reflect on the relationship among your actions, words, and values.

When your purpose and values are clear, and you understand the meaning and significance of a situation, you will have the words in your heart to be authentic, to be real, and to speak up. You will never have to wrestle with the question, "What if ...?" because you will know what is in your heart, and you will act on it.

You will be filled with Courage.

CALL TO ACTION: Choose one of the negative behaviors you identified in the Call to Action from the Hero's Question. What is the "tax" experienced by each of the following groups of people? In other words, what are the consequences, experiences, and feelings that each group of people may have as a result of participating in or observing that behavior?

For example, if you identified "hazing" as a negative behavior, what does it mean for participants to allow themselves to be humiliated? For the community, how might future leaders be influenced by their experiences as perpetrators or victims of hazing? For everybody impacted or involved, how would a culture of hazing reflect on participants, perpetrators, bystanders, the chapter, and the community?

  • Participants
  • Perpetrators
  • Bystanders
  • Chapter
  • Community

Want to read more about demonstrating six different types of Courage (physical, social, intellectual, moral, emotional, spiritual), check out: The site is directed toward parents of young children, but the descriptors of courage are inspiring and instructional.