Has The Courage Penalty Affected You?

Have you noticed how much effort goes into suppressing the natural desire of people to live well, to be themselves, and to enjoy life?

We are offered a world that generates a constant diet of trauma. We are being herded over and over again into a world that wants to keep us working and slaving for some kind of reward. We have been conditioned to reach for rewards that do not necessarily serve our interests. So many feel that their dreams are out of their reach.
Do you ever wonder why that is? I have, and I have stuck with it as a question for a long time.

I think that there can be one primary reason that makes sense. Authoritarian systems, which have been the rule for most of human life and are invested in controlling others, create a courage penalty in order to keep people in their place, so to speak. Today we will discuss this and how a joy practice naturally supports our courage and protects our hope.

Distinguish Between Surviving And Hope

There is a conflicted relationship between survival and hope, especially when our hope comes from culture and society.

The more constricted our source of hope, the more precarious it feels. So if your hope depends on one person, then naturally, you will be afraid a lot. The greater your field of resources for sustaining yourself, the lower your fear. Animals need a territory large enough to sustain them; we humans also need enough resources to sustain us. There is, of course, an important relationship between nourishing resources and hope.

For a long time, nature was our source of nourishment and therefore hope. When we shifted our source of hope away from nature, which does support us, to culture, which harvests resources to provide us with nourishment and therefore hope, we made a change in how we thought about hope and where we get support. Although none of us can indeed do it all alone, we still depend on nature for our sustenance – all of us, no matter what our social position.

Our cultures, which theoretically are organized to develop ways to use natural resources to support us, have their own agendas and create social systems of preference. That is a convoluted way of saying favoritism, the various ways in which societies favor some over others, sometimes overtly but not always. That favoritism is generally awarded to those who serve the cultural system or hierarchy, or you could say those who protect the status quo. When the status quo is protected, those who take care of it and protect it gain advantages, and those who do not often are not as well taken care of.

Hierarchy has been a long-time fascination, challenge, and frustration for us as humans because of the competitive social dynamics it generates. Hierarchies that want to remain protected need a lot of people to protect them. Often when we say protection, what we mean is avoiding change.  We see that dynamic at play right now as the need for change has bumped up against a fierce resistance to change.

What Creates The Courage Penalty?

Cultures have many strategies for maintaining a social and organizational structure for operational and social continuity. That includes keeping people in their \”place.\” Although we have individuals and groups with advantages in hierarchies, we also have those who support the advantaged, usually accorded a lower status. A world that advantages some has a problem: what do you do to handle the natural desire and hope we all have for a life filled with joy and naturally hope? Too often, the answer is to squash the hope and the joy.

There is an additional wrinkle to this. Those who are less favored or distrusted because they are different, and those who disagree with the policies and practices of the ruling hierarchy are not well received which means social hierarchies and differences are punished in various ways and with differing degrees of harshness. It is such a mistake not to allow the voices of those who are not insiders because intelligence and wisdom can come from anywhere. However, those who offer their intelligence and wisdom often find that they are personal non-grata. Perhaps this is to be expected when you are the canary in the coal mine. Perhaps it is a huge mistake.

Whatever assessment you make, we have a name for it. I am calling it the courage penalty. Have you felt penalized for your courage? Many of us have. I would love to hear how.


Photo by NEOM on Unsplash

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