Thursday, April 3, 2014

Courage (NaPoMo 3/30)

Today I am celebrating poets, poetry, and poems by highlighting researcher and story-teller Brene's Brown's definition of courage and contrasting it to the definition I grew up with while serving 28 years in the US Army.

Different types of courage are needed for different situations. Brene Brown's 5-point definition of courage covers the waterfront in an admirably poetic fashion, suitable, in my opinion, for today's National Poetry Month submission.

Here is the Army's definition of Personal Courage, one of the seven Army Values contained in the acronym, LDRSHIP.

Face fear, danger or adversity (physical or moral). Personal courage has long been associated with our Army. With physical courage, it is a matter of enduring physical duress and at times risking personal safety. Facing moral fear or adversity may be a long, slow process of continuing forward on the right path, especially if taking those actions is not popular with others. You can build your personal courage by daily standing up for and acting upon the things that you know are honorable. -- U.S. Army  

When I read the Army's definition of courage, I understand and admire it on a deeply personal level. I see a culture imbuing its values in the individuals. I see instructions and examples, both implied and explicit. It's very clear to the reader that each person who strives to live up to the Army value of courage must be willing to overcome fear, face danger, and deal with physical or moral adversity. The message is, We are the Army. To be part of us, you must do what is expected. I have tried to live up to the Army values for most of my adult life.

I feel that Brene Brown took the prosaic elements of the Army's value of Personal Courage and elevated them to poetic. Follow the Army's or Brene's prescription and the result is the same. However, Brene's approach speaks to vulnerability of individuals and power of connections. She repudiates "An Army of One" and validates "Be All You Can Be" and "Army Strong."

According to the Army's definition, a lack of courage is the same thing as weakness. To show weakness is to be unworthy of the Army. According to Brene Brown, to show weakness is to show humanity. It takes courage to accept one's weakness and ask for help, reach out for support. Implicit in this vulnerability are two powerful ideas:

  • One must be open to the truth and willing to know oneself deeply and seek self-improvement
  • One must trust in and rely upon the surrounding network of fellow vulnerable and imperfect humans 

All of us are smarter, stronger, and more courageous than any one of us. Choose your network, use your network, and let your network use you. If more Soldiers interpreted the Army value of Personal Courage through Brene Brown's eyes, perhaps we'd have more behavioral health visits and fewer suicides and mass shootings such as the one we experienced at Fort Hood April 2, 2014.

How do YOU define Courage?


Like Brene, or TED Talks, or both? Check Brene's TED Talk on vulnerability HERE