Where Shall Courage Be Found?

By Paul Coughlin
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
Focus on the Family
To grow your courage, find out what grieves you. Write it down and share it with someone you trust who will encourage you.

Courage isn’t found solely within our emotional capacity (that is, our heart). Courage, the Greeks told us, is found within what they called our thumos. Just as we say that reason and logic are found in our brain (the Greeks called this capacity logos) thumos is found in our chest and lungs.

This understanding is more helpful than we might realize at first. Here’s why: If we relied only upon our emotions in order to do the right thing during difficult times, what we would hear and obey is the often cowardly and safety-loving power of fear. In order to be truly courageous, we have to sometimes ignore our emotions and soldier on anyway, like Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane [Matt 26:42].

Using Your Thumos

You have probably been using your thumos to fight fear and grow your courage more often than you realize. It’s no coincidence that when we struggle to bolster our courage, one of the first things we do automatically is breath more deeply and vigorously. Without really knowing it, we are trying to melt the fear in our heart through the animation of our chest and lungs, which grows our capacity for courage.

Our emotions fuel the flame of courage, but they are not the flame itself. Courage is born and grown when we marry our emotional capacity, especially the feeling of indignation, with our God-given understanding of right and wrong—especially our understanding of justice.

Think of your thumos as the place within you where feelings and thoughts wrestle and heat up to the point of taking action on behalf of what is good and right. No wonder that it is from the word thumos that we get the common word, Thermos, a more obvious container of heat. When we grow our thumotic capacity, we grow our ability to courageously attach our lives to transcendent causes, aligning our will with God’s will.

The word indignation means in part “much to grieve.‚” To grow your courage, find out what grieves you. Write it down and share it with someone you trust who will encourage you to act upon your godly indignation. But be careful. In ways that remain somewhat mysterious, we harm our ability for courageous action when we fail to act upon what we know we should do. C.S. Lewis put it this way in Screwtape Letters where a demonic being instructs another demonic being on how to destroy a person’s soul: “The more often [your subject] feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.”

Courage is also grown through belief in God, which brings us assurance of God’s love and care in our lives, as seen in the lives of many in the Bible, especially Moses [Exodus 15:2]. When we have a belief that God is with us, we are encouraged, which means both being comforted and urged forward. Belief in God gives us a tangible strength as we walk through our everyday life.

God also longs to give us a courageous spirit as well. He told us so through the apostle Paul’s second letter to his timid protégé, Timothy. A young man with a difficult job, Timothy was often out-gunned and disrespected by older members in his community who questioned his authority due to his younger age.

God-Given Courage

Paul provides one of the most helpful insights that a person who struggles with timidity can receive: “For the spirit that God gave us is no craven [cowardly or timid] spirit, but one of strength, love and self-discipline‚” [2 Timothy 1:7] Once again, we see our three fundamental capacities: strength, synonymous with courage, love, the greatest of all emotions, and self-discipline, the product of logic and reason. God gives us a courageous spirit and we need to pray for wisdom on how this spirit can grow within us even more.

And here’s some more good news regarding this foundational virtue: Our capacity for courage increases with age, so each and every one of us is moving this direction without even trying. With age, we gradually lose our unbiblical “fear of man‚” and in doing so, are more open to doing the will of God, which is sometimes opposed to the will of man. With this greater capacity for courage comes the understanding that like faith, courage is grown in the doing, expanding the richness of our lives and the depth of our faith as well.

Copyright 2009 Paul Coughlin. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Share:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

About the Author

Paul Coughlin

Paul Coughlin is an author, an international speaker and the founder and president of The Protectors, which is dedicated to helping schools, organizations and communities combat bullying. His books include No More Christian Nice Guy, Raising Bully-Proof Kids and 5 Secrets Great Dads Know. Paul and his wife, Sandy, reside in southern Oregon and have three teenage children. Learn more …

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.


If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.