Can We Eliminate The Courage Penalty?

The courage penalty created by hierarchical human social systems has made change difficult for thousands of years. It is important to note that nature does not have the same social system of preference. Although it has its own harshness, It is a shared system of aliveness, nourishment, and well-being. 

The human world does not seem to have the same felt commitment. We all come into this world thinking we are part of it, and too often, we slowly discover that we are not really. Our lives get pushed in directions that insert us into some slot not of our choosing to serve our society. The arrangements of favoritism have been with us for thousands of years and have cemented many people in ways of living that make it hard for them not only to survive but also to have some dignity. When they struggle with this, we call it a mental health issue. We do not address the nasty favoritism at the heart of human culture that is so destructive for so many. We too often talk about merit, but do we really walk our talk? Not really. The young creature born into this world expects to be a part of it and expects to have a voice; you can see it in their joy and enthusiasm, which gets squashed in so many ways by making their courage, creativity, and intelligence a liability. Let’s change that. 

Why Have We Made Courage So Difficult?

It is important to note that nature does not have the same social system of preference. Although it has its own harshness, It is a shared system of aliveness, nourishment, and well-being. 

The human world does not seem to have the same felt commitment. We all come into this world thinking we are part of it, and too often, we slowly discover that we are not really. Our lives get pushed in directions that insert us into some slot not of our choosing to serve our society. The arrangements of favoritism have been with us for thousands of years and have cemented many people in ways of living that make it hard for them not only to survive but also to have some dignity. When they struggle with this, we call it a mental health issue. We do not address the nasty favoritism at the heart of human culture that is so destructive for so many. We too often talk about merit, but do we really walk our talk? Not really. The young creature born into this world expects to be a part of it and expects to have a voice; you can see it in their joy and enthusiasm, which gets squashed in so many ways by making their courage, creativity, and intelligence a liability. Let’s change that. 

How Do We Change The Courage Penalty?

Many of us are encouraged to think that our social system depends on us, and to a degree, it does. What does that really mean? Does it mean it depends on us to give up our hopes and dreams “for the benefit of all?” and why would that even be the case? What kind of society do we have that wants people to give up their hopes and dreams? Why is there so much effort right now for people to claim their dreams, and how many, after having given up so much when they were young, know what that even means? That cannot feel very good.

In addition, too often, people are treated as a threat if they do not stay in their assigned place. The security of society depends on those who provide the supports that keep the society functioning, but when they want (or need) a different path or arrangement, they are often treated with hostility. That’s an example of the courage penalty in action. Ask any woman or person of color about the headwinds they face for moving out of their assigned place.

Too often, the voice of the very people the culture depends on is stifled. Is it really smart to prevent the intelligence of the people from serving the well-being of society? In addition, it is worth asking what expectation and requirement of care and respect comes with demands placed on citizens. Any? Do guilt and a courage penalty perhaps serve as the social glue, and might we challenge that?

It is worth asking why we need to have a society that creates arrangements that advantage some over others, that reward some, and essentially exploit others. Is it really practical to invest so many resources, human and natural, in military and other policing functions which drain us and certainly do not support our citizens and our well-being? Suppose we were to decide that the primary and mandatory purpose of our societies is well-being, not just security. Suppose we looked at how we create the need for security by taking away people’s hopes and dreams and see if we couldn’t flip the script so that we no longer need to control people so much.

How A Joy Practice Eliminates The Courage Penalty

A joy practice is a very practical way to create change. The three pillars of a joy-filled life which we discussed in another article,  introduced the 3 Cs, which are the foundation of a joy practice and a joy-filled life:

  1. the intention of being constructive,
  2. taking actions that are cherishing or caring,
  3. and serving the common good.

These three pillars automatically create a space that invites choices that promote well-being and joy. They are low on conflict and adversity, so they make collaboration easier. They connect with the real issues that need to be addressed so that problems do not get pushed under the rug. They are a practical way to show up in life every day, do your best, and have it be enough. They are especially valuable to noticing, fostering, and promoting the good in life, wherever that can be found. So much of our conflict in the world is being maintained when there are solutions to our problems. Why are we tolerating this?

A joy practice is focused on making the best of things, valuing the good in people and life, and working with others to care for our earth and other supports for our lives. Because it is so constructive, there is less need for the harsh control measures that a courage penalty creates. There is no need to stifle the dreams and hopes of people because everyone participates in creating a world that supports our dreams and hopes. There is less of a need to feel like escaping. There is less trauma which makes it easier for everyone to contribute, which is self-honoring and honoring of our time on this earth. Any system that offers people dignity and self-respect will make life easier for everyone. I invite you to consider how we might do this and do it together. I would love to hear your thoughts. 

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

2 Comments

  1. Alysa on June 23, 2023 at 4:22 am

    Thank you, Maria. You articulate what I’ve been feeling so well. I love your work.

    • Maria Hill on June 23, 2023 at 4:57 am

      Thanks, Alysa – I am glad it resonated. ❤️

      Warmly,
      Maria

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