Courage versus Fears: A Definition Essay

by Luis Lopez


      In 1980, when I was nine years old, the Civil War in my country began. The Civil War helped me to grow in courage, justice, and solidarity through the community work with my neighbors. For example, we helped one another defend our neighborhood with courage against the army attacks by hiding our neighbors in the basement. According to the Advanced American Dictionary, courage is a “quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution.” This all suggests that the quality of courage allows the human being to face life, especially in those moments where one can experience fear or danger.
      Courage enables a person to overcome fear. In 2005 I went to Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica, to help as a missionary in a rural parish. This town is located in a tropical forest where there are a lot of savage animals such as tapirs, crocodiles, jaguars, ocelots, jaguarondis, pumas, spiders, monkeys and snakes. Although I did not want to go to this place because I was afraid of snakes, my formation director asked me to go because I had to overcome my fears with these creatures. After I arrived in Puerto Jimenez, a lady asked me to touch a snake that she had as a pet; I was so nervous, but I was able to overcome my fears with snakes, and I touched it. At first I felt a chill, but afterwards I felt more comfortable, and I lost my fear of snakes. I also experienced fear during my first visit to my family in 2008. At the time it had been ten years since I saw them because they lived in the United States, and I lived in Mexico. When I arrived at the San Francisco airport I was interviewed by an immigration agent. I was afraid because at the time I could not speak English, and I thought that I would not be able to enter this country. Although I was not able to speak English, I got courage and I spoke with the immigrant agent in my bad English about the reasons for my visit to the United States. However, I was surprised when he answered me speaking in Spanish. The above situations are two examples of overcoming our fears through courage.
      Courage allows a person to face dangerous situations. In 2008 I went to El Guamal, Colombia, to work as a missionary. In this small village there was a fast river. I was asked to visit a community on the other side of the river. At this time I was not able to swim. I was told that one could cross the river by walking because it was not so deep. However, when I was in the middle of the river the water rose above my shoulders, and I got scared. The stream dragged me down, and I found myself in a very dangerous situation. I was scared and thought I would die, but I got courage, and I was able to reach the other side of the river by swimming like a dog. Another occasion when I found myself in a dangerous situation was when I was going in a car to my hometown. My friend was driving the car. Suddenly, our car got hit by another car, and my friend lost control of the steering wheel. The car was going toward the cliff, and I grasped the steering wheel so I was able to stabilize the car. These two personal experiences show that a person is able to face dangerous situations when getting courage.
      Finally, from my point of view, life gives us many experiences where we can learn how to face danger and fear with courage. During the Civil War I learned from my neighbors and friends to do many things together. When I witness a need, I have sought to help. For example, during the past summer I taught old people how to read and write, and I gave food to poor people through food banks. Despite the bad times all of us have learned from these experiences. In conclusion, the quality of courage that is possessed by human beings enables them to overcome fear and danger.

Editor's note: this essay was written as part of Academic Reading and Writing IV, one of the courses taught by the English Communications Program. The purpose of the course is to help prepare English language learners for college level work. For this assignment, the students were asked to write an essay defining the virtue of courage. The course is taught by Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB. She also teaches Writing in the Humanities and a journalism course.