Updated: Nov 20
Courage, an attribute often associated with heroism and audacity, holds a timeless significance in human experience. From epic tales of bravery in the face of adversity to everyday acts of resilience, courage is the force that propels individuals beyond their comfort zones and enables them to conquer challenges that would otherwise seem insurmountable. This article explores the multifaceted nature of courage, delving into its psychological, historical, and personal dimensions to unveil the remarkable power it holds in shaping lives and societies, echoing the core principles of the Samurai Code of Bushido, the Way of the Warrior.
In the Samurai Code of Bushido, courage, or (勇気 Yūki), is regarded as one of the highest virtues and emphasizes the ability to confront fear, pain, danger, or uncertainty, despite the natural inclination to retreat or avoid. Courage, in the context of Bushido, encompasses a wide spectrum of actions, from standing up for one's beliefs in the face of opposition to risking one's well-being for the betterment of others. Courage does not signify the absence of fear, but rather represents the unwavering ability to act in spite of fear.
From a psychological aspect, courage draws from an individual's capacity to manage their emotions and thoughts. It involves the art of balancing vulnerability and strength.
Throughout history, humanity has been enriched with tales of courage, including the samurai's unwavering commitment to honor and bravery. Other examples include the courageous stand of Mahatma Gandhi through nonviolent resistance, Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her seat on a segregated bus, Chiune Sugihara’s writing transit visas for Jewish refugees, and the valiant efforts of medical personnel to save lives. These examples mirror the Bushido principle of courage.
In the first chapter of my book “Let The Samurai Be Your Guide”, I discussed Chiune Sugihara, also known as the Japanese Schindler. He was the Japanese diplomat stationed in Lithuania during World War II who exemplified incredible courage in the face of adversity. He defied the orders of his government and issued thousands of transit visas to Jewish refugees, enabling them to escape the horrors of the Holocaust in the early days of WWII. Sugihara's courageous act saved countless lives, demonstrating that courage knows no borders and can be a beacon of hope even in the darkest of times.
On a personal level, courage manifests in everyday life in myriad ways. It might be the courage to apologize for a mistake, to pursue an uncharted career path, or to open up about mental health struggles. Each of these acts requires embracing vulnerability and demonstrating an unwavering commitment to do the right thing.
Courage and resilience, essential to the Samurai Code of Bushido, are intertwined concepts that work hand in hand. While courage enables individuals to confront challenges, resilience provides the ability to bounce back from setbacks and failures, a principle deeply ingrained in the samurai's ethos. Together, these qualities form a powerful duo that propels individuals forward. The combination of courage and resilience allows people to turn adversity into opportunity and transform setbacks into stepping stones.
Cultivating courage is a lifelong journey that involves self-awareness, self-compassion, and a willingness to embrace discomfort. Stepping out of one's comfort zone, setting achievable goals, and seeking support are essential steps in nurturing courage, mirroring the principles of discipline and camaraderie deeply rooted in Bushido. Courage is a force that resides within every individual, echoing the Bushido belief that the potential for courage exists in all. It's the engine that drives progress, emboldens dreams, and shapes the narratives of our lives, a sentiment mirrored in the samurai way of life. Courage becomes the building block for fortitude required to tackle life’s challenges head-on. From the pages of history to the corners of everyday existence, courage stands as a testament to the indomitable human spirit. By understanding its complexities and fostering its growth, we can unlock the potential of Bushido, the way of the warrior, and create a brighter future.
Do you know any stories of courage? Let us know! Share your stories of bravery and resilience, and join the conversation as we explore the remarkable power of courage and its enduring impact on our lives and the world around us. Your stories and insights can inspire and uplift others on their journeys and generations to come.
Learn about the concept of courage in my book, “Let The Samurai Be Your Guide.”
Whaley, Lori Tsugawa. Let the Samurai Be Your Guide: The Seven Bushido Pathways to Personal Success. Tuttle Publishing, 2020.
Brower, Tracy. “Be Brave: How To Build Your Professional Courage.” forbes.com, 2 October 2022, https://www.forbes.com/sites/tracybrower/2021/10/24/be-brave-how-to-build-your-professional-courage/?sh=135370a95048. Accessed 22 September 2023.
“MOFA: Story of a courageous diplomat of humanity, Mr. Chiune Sugihara.” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, https://www.mofa.go.jp/region/middle_e/israel/sugihara.html. Accessed 22 September 2023.
“Chiune (Sempo) Sugihara | Holocaust Encyclopedia.” Holocaust Encyclopedia, https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/chiune-sempo-sugihara. Accessed 22 September 2023.