From Caring Comes Courage

By | February 25, 2019

[February 25, 2019] These words are by the legendary Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu; written more than two millennia ago. Courage is an attribute that is highly prized; and it matters not from what culture we observe. To study the idea of courage is to gain a better understanding of its nature, its benefits, and why it exists.

“From caring comes courage.” – Lao Tzu1, ancient Chinese philosopher and writer

I’m no philosopher, but what interested me in Lao Tzu and many who followed his line of reasoning was the idea that courage has its origin in another primitive human trait: caring. These are inseparable traits in humans. The mother who protects her child while in danger and who ignores possible harm to herself is a classic example of courage.

Some psychologists have argued that courage is inherent and that our genetic makeup determines how much of it each of us possesses. I’m not so sure about that because, from my experience, caring and courage are very much learned attributes. Yes, I will admit there may be some proclivity or deep-seated emotional drive to express these. However, there may be some unique human quality to act contrary to our fight or flight instincts.

I have argued in the past that the most important leadership characteristic is caring.2 Why then is it then that we see the idea of caring is largely ignored while courage put onto a high pedestal? I think the reasoning centers on the fact that most of us are uneducated and undisciplined in the ways of knowing the motivations of individuals under stress.

When humans are tested to their limits, their true attributes come to the surface. I saw this in combat (the ultimate stressor) when life and death decisions are made, and the results are immediate. I like to think that most humans, if trained and experienced, will make the right choices (ethically and efficiently).

While that may be arguably true about daily decision making, what is not contested is that the courage we show is closely tied to how much we care about those around us. Soldiers in combat demonstrate over and again that in a nasty firefight that they fight for their buddies, not for the good of humankind.

It is the caring element in people that make us “good” and, as such, transcends rational thinking. It becomes faith. Without faith in those around us, we would not care. Leadership means tapping into this psychological phenomena and understanding it. We must never forget that courage is derived from caring.


  1. 老子; Laozi, Lao-Tze, or Lao-Tzu; literally “Old Master”
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

20 thoughts on “From Caring Comes Courage

  1. Edward Kennedy III

    I everyone. Just for the sake of keeping General Satterfield’s readers informed, I will be traveling back to South America to again fight the Venezuelan gov’t. Nothing pleases me more than seeing another socialist dictator fall on his butt. We will be kicking ass. Will you read about this in the media? Nope! Later, perhaps in a month or so, I will write an article on it for you here on this website. Happy hunting!

    1. Willie Shrumburger

      Wow! Kick some butt while you are there. The failure of dictatorships is a good thing for the people. Iran should bge next.

    2. Maureen S. Sullivan

      Go get ’em, Mr. Kennedy! I’m one of your many fans. I can’t wait to hear what you did. Oh, stay safe and keep your head down.

    3. Tracey Brockman

      I do love your ability and opportunity to help destroy evil. Socialism, like it’s big brother Communism, is evil because of what it does to destroy. And, like them all, some form of dictatorship must exist to keep the people in line.

  2. Eric Coda

    Like others in the comment section, I too never gave this much thought. I pays, intellectually and emotionally, to read and understand better the writings of those philosophers of the past. No need to make the ideas complex just short and sweet.

  3. Greg Heyman

    “The journey of a thousand miles, begins with one step.” My most favorite quote. I don’t think, however, that Lao Tzu knew what a ‘mile’ was, of course, but the idea is unchanging. To begin any journal, especially the hard one, has to begin somewhere. Take that first step; it might be easier than you think.

    1. Jerome Smith

      For those who are making a comeback, this is a great idea to keep in mind.

    2. Wilson Cox

      I have a good friend who is a recovering alcoholic. He has this quote taped to his refrig and reads it every morning befor beginning his day. Just put one foot in front of the other. They journey will become our life and our salvation.

  4. José Luis Rodriguez

    The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu and his “Life and Teachings” is interesting. See the link above in this article. His sayings didn’t survive for over 2,500 years for nothing. They have meaning and resonate in the best of us.

    1. Max Foster

      Yes, and that is why our kids should be taught about those philosophers, including the ancient Greeks, and have someone explain to them the real meanings behind their words. This is something the American educational system has failed at. Too bad. Now we have ‘snowflake’ young people who think they themselves are the center of the universe and everyone they disagree with is evil.

    2. Mark Evans

      All of us need a better understanding of the ancients. Their wrods are important and deserve study by all of us who wish to be better people.

  5. Jonathan B.

    Another great article here at this leadership blog. This is my website that helps keep me on the straight and narrow. Anything we say, in the medical community, that doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.

  6. Scotty Bush

    The idea that caring is considered the lesser of an important trait in humans than courage is something that we should pay more attention to. Caring is associated with mothers. Courage is associated with men. When I say “associated with” that doesn’t mean 100%, of course. They say it’s a man’s world. But that is a myopic view of humanity. Just a thought.

  7. Army Captain

    This is an interesting take on the core of courage. Caring might be a little more important than I knew.


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