What if the person is wrong? Or an egomaniac? What if their cause isn’t just?
“This is how despots are made and murderous regimes are built. This is how religious sects become doomsday cults,” writes Ryan. One person “can just as easily lead [themselves]—and the majority—right off a cliff.”
2: The answer? According to Aristotle, courage is at the midway point between two vices: cowardice and recklessness. Both of which are dangerous.
“It was said of the charge of the Light Brigade that Lord Lucan, who gave the order, was an overly cautious ass, while Lord Cardigan, who led the suicidal charge without question, was a reckless ass,” writes Ryan.
“Both are bad, but we tend to chastise the former more than the latter,” he notes. “This is a mistake. Fear can at least protect a person. Complete fearlessness is a recipe for ruin.”
If we pick fights indiscriminately, we will eventually find ourselves outmatched at some point. “Worse, who knows who else may be dragged in and pay for [our] cockiness?” Ryan asks.
Being courageous involves risk. But only carefully considered risk. “It doesn’t mean forsaking a motorcycle helmet because [we] think [we]’re invincible,” Ryan notes.
3: Which is why the genuinely brave are often quiet. They aren’t timid or self-effacing. They just lack the time or interest in being boastful.
When we come upon real courage in the world, we “feel its intensity” before we see it, Ryan writes. “It will not manifest in a caricature of the thrill-seeker or the daredevil.
“The courageous do not, as we have said, run around half-cocked. They are not stupid and therefore do not actively seek conflict. Even in their daring, they will be subdued unless you happen to find them in the midst of one of those rare decisive moments where they must call upon their courage. And still, in action they will be deliberate and calm, methodical and measured.”
Courage isn’t “hot-headed.” It’s “cold-blooded,” Ryan writes. “Grace under pressure is also expressed as cool under pressure for a reason. Caution and care are not antonyms for courage but complements. Make sure [we] package them together.”
We may regret our brashness, Ryan observes.
Reflection: At my worst, which extreme is my tendency: playing small or being reckless? Think of a situation where this occurred. What could I learn from this experience?
Action: Journal about it.