Thoughts on Courage and Being Afraid

By | March 10, 2023

[March 10, 2023]   People often talk to me about my courage; they say because of my time in combat, but that is not precisely correct.  I just learned to be afraid of the right things.  During my time in the Army, I’ve seen that not saying what is true is what really has terrible consequences.

Whatever I had to say that wasn’t popular was nothing like the trouble I would get into if I did not tell the truth.  If I were to lose control of my tongue and mind by repeating the words, the lies, of others for whatever reason (and believe me there are plenty of “good” reasons), that would bring hell upon me.

I cannot get away with a lie.  I have never seen anyone get away with lying, not even once.  In military life, in all of life, all we have that is worthwhile is the truth.  And, of course, we only have our best approximation of the truth, but that’s better than nothing at all.

You need to be afraid of the right thing.  You should be afraid of contaminating your own being, yourself, with deceit and lies.  That is really what you should be afraid of, as that will definitely do you in.  If you fill your head with nonsense, no one except you will call you out on it.  But I know we can crush that voice – calling us out – if we try hard enough.

Then wait until you are in real trouble with real horrific problems.  One day will come when you have to make a decision, which is the difference between life and death, or worse between someone else’s life and death, or worse, between health and terrible suffering that’s worse than death.  If you compromised yourself to such an extent by previous lies, you will not be able to rely upon your judgment, and you will make the mistakes you should not make.

And then you are done.  That will absolutely happen.  If you voluntarily tell those things you know not to be true, you do so at your exceptional peril.  If you avoid the unpleasant truths that you have to delve into in all its messiness, you do so at your absolute peril and the peril of everyone around you.

If you see that is what you are doing, you will become afraid of that, which is true hell.  And hell is worse than death.


Please read my books:

  1. “55 Rules for a Good Life,” on Amazon (link here).
  2. “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

21 thoughts on “Thoughts on Courage and Being Afraid

  1. Jeff Blackwater

    “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” … Mark Twain

    1. Tom Bushmaster

      Good quote and I love Mark Twain and his humor and way with words. The idea of courage actually permeates his works and so a thorough read or re-read of him is highly recommended. Also, if you read the classics – those that most folks love – you will also find courage as a central theme or at least a major theme. And fighting off the dragon will be underneath most of what we consider the best stories.

  2. Yusaf from Texas

    You cannot not learn to be not afraid, but you can learn to have courage.

  3. Randy Goodman

    Face your fears. Do not let them determine your life. But, I know that most folks are cowards to the core. But you can overcome it. Just look toward a noble goal you believe you MUST achieve and then move toward it with a single minded focus.

    1. Maureen S. Sullivan

      Armywife, unfortunately too many people, esp. the young do not understand that at all. In fact, telling lies to themselves is the most difficult to do but with practice even the narcissistic, self-absorbed Millenials can do it. Just watch them in action anywhere. They are doing the most insane things that show clearly they are no where near reality.

  4. Eye Cat

    “The scientific literature on this is clear. What you do with people who are afraid is lay out what their fear is about and expose them to it voluntarily. What does not happen is they get less afraid (as expected). They get braver, which is not the same as being less afraid.” – Gen. Satterfield. This tells us a lot.

  5. docwatson

    People often talk to me about my courage; they say because of my time in combat, but that is not precisely correct. I just learned to be afraid of the right things. During my time in the Army, I’ve seen that not saying what is true is what really has terrible consequences. – Gen. Satterfield. Says a lot about his character.

    1. Plato

      Yes, docwatson and not an easy task. You have to build yourself up to that point and it would be good if Gen. Satterfield could develop this idea a bit more for us.

    2. Max Foster

      Much has been written about courage, fear, and the character a person possesses that makes these emotions (yes, emotions) function for us or against us. That is where folks like Gen. Satterfield can help. When Gen. S writes that being afraid of the right things does give us some insight into his character. But also note that Gen. S. has also stated on numerous occasions that being afraid is not the issue but having the courage anyway to do what is right. That is a better way of looking at courage and fear. Just me thinking off the cuff. 😎

      1. Dead Pool Guy

        Max, you are right about that but I will add that I don’t think this is a contradiction but actually an advancement of the idea to have courage.

        1. Kerry

          Wow, great discussion guys. Maybe Gen. Satterfield can add something here for us. I think there are two lines of thought on courage and fear. We all have fear, the idea that we can overcome fear is not technically true. We can gain courage but not reduce fear at the same time. And, that we can tell the truth and that puts us on the right path.

    1. osmodsann

      I agree Wild Bill but I think Gen. Satterfield put John Wayne as a thumbnail because John Wayne symbolizes courage and the rejection of fear. John Wayne also was trustworthy and never lied. This symbolism should not be lost on us.

      1. old warrior

        Rigth, John Wayne sure knew how to kick butt. He didn’t need to lie cheat or steal.

    2. Liz at Home

      Yep, and he rode a great horse and they made a team to deal with. Our snowflake generation could take a lesson from him and from Gen. Satterfield. Hey, if you get a chance, then get a copy of “55 rules for a good life” and you will be on the path to having a much better, and satisfying life.


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