It takes courage to be honest, when the "easy" thing to do is to tell a lie, or not to say anything. It's courageous to befriend someone who is ostracized by others, and to stand up for a person when he or she is being bullied. Courage is needed when dealing with fear or uncertainty, and when making difficult choices that uphold our values and beliefs, but may not lead to great popularity with others.
I'm fortunate to have many people in my life who exhibit great courage. I know parents who are courageous enough to set limits for their children, and to ensure that they learn the connection between their choices and the consequences that accompany them. I know teachers who are courageous enough to teach their lessons in novel ways when they see that their students would benefit from that. I know business people who are courageous in running their business with integrity, even when it doesn't always mean that they'll come out ahead financially. I know individuals, with and without autism spectrum disorders (ASD), who courageously venture out of their comfort zones, sometimes several times each day, in order to make connections with other people, to learn new things, and to utilize their abilities in meaningful ways.
It's interesting to look at various dictionary definitions of the word "courage." Although some define it as the absence of fear, personally I prefer this definition from the American Heritage Dictionary: "The state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution; bravery." Possessing courage does not mean that we will not have fear; rather, it means that we attempt to stay strong and resolute in spite of fear.
Are we teaching our children and students the meaning and value of courage? We can affirm others' courage by pointing out when they are exhibiting courage, and by showing the connection between their courageous choices and the positive outcomes that they're likely experiencing.
I'll close with this quote attributed to Keshavan Nair: "With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate, and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity."
I wish for all of us the strength to be courageous, and grace to affirm the courage we see in others!
By the way, Try and Stick with It is a delightful picture book by Cheri Meiners, which helps to teach the value of flexibility and perseverance, even when things are difficult, or don't turn out the way we'd like them to. That sounds like courage to me!