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Bravery vs Courage

lion knightBravery and courage, are certainly similar, but are they synonymous?

If we look to the dictionary, Merriam-Webster offers these definitions:

bravery /brā-və-rē/ n. the quality that allows someone to do things that are dangerous or frightening : the quality or state of being brave

courage /ˈkər-ij/ n. mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty

The dictionary definition points out that bravery is about overcoming fear to face danger, while courage adds the dimension of moral strength to overcome fear. I recently heard definitions that I really like from speaker and police trainer Brian Willis (that he attributes to Chip Huth and Jack Colwell) that make that point even clearer.

bravery /brā-və-rē/ n. to act for what is right, at risk to self, when members of one’s social group agree with the act.

courage /ˈkər-ij/ n. to act for what is right, at risk to self, when members of one’s social group do not agree with the act.

They are identical, except for the social risk taken when taking courageous action. In this definition, facing combat requires bravery; putting a hand on your partner’s shoulder to talk to him about his excessive drinking or other destructive behavior requires courage. Bravery is overcoming fear and taking on physical danger together with your team. Courage is challenging your team, or someone on it, when they are not doing the right thing. A profound difference.

Physical bravery is an animal instinct; moral bravery is much higher and truer courage. – Wendell Phillips

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