Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.
C. S. Lewis
Firefighters Are The Embodiment of True Courage
From the outside looking in, the general public would say that we as firefighters are the embodiment of true courage.
It is true that we must possess a certain level of courage to do the job. Yet ask any of us where we get the courage to go into a burning building and our answer will be along the lines of: “I don’t know…it’s just what I am supposed to do.”
Therefore, the courage that every firefighter possesses is instinctual: it cannot be taught, learned, or magically acquired…it simply is.
We Are A Proud Group
We are a proud group who have chosen this profession, knowing that it comes with inherent and sometimes unavoidable dangers. Notwithstanding, we still choose to do it knowing that we may not come home at the end of the next shift.
Unfortunately, I feel like something is missing from my romantic description of firefighter courage. There must be more truth to it.
As a fire service, we are failing to grasp what true courage really means and we are failing to live it out to its full potential.
We may all possess the physical courage that is required to operate at a fire, but do we have the character courage that is required to create teamwork, build trust, and foster growth at the interpersonal level? For most of us, it is easy to crawl down a hot, smoke-filled hallway; yet some of us cower at the prospect of giving encouragement and gratitude to our brethren.
How Can We Be Firefighters With True Courage?
We must have the audacity to make a positive impact on our crew mates by frequently encouraging them. Courage is found in the word encouragement for obvious reasons:
1) The act of encouraging others builds strength and confidence. These are 2 qualities that directly impact one’s physical and character courage.
2) When we openly encourage those around us, we are opening up ourselves to criticism and ridicule. As firehouse leaders, we push past this vulnerability with true courage for the betterment of the Brotherhood.
In the fire service, it can be easy to solely focus on the mistakes of others. Whether it is finding fault, shifting blame or gossiping, we must realize that all are counterproductive and a waste of time.
Whether we have been on the job for 1 month or for 20 years, we are going to make mistakes. True courage manifests itself when we have the humility to own up to our mistakes and help others learn from them. On the other end of the spectrum, true courage is evident when we selflessly help others learn and grow from their mistakes.
We must not view and define others by the sum of their mistakes. Mistakes will happen, but we must always be willing to give others the benefit of the doubt.
Take heart to Goethe’s wisdom: Treat a man as he is, he will remain so. Treat a man the way he can be and ought to be, and he will become as he can be and should be.
The Ten Pillars of a Firefighter’s True Courage
1. Knows when to boldly speak up, yet can decipher when to listen with humility.
2. Puts selfish pride aside for the betterment of the Brotherhood.
3. Says: WE instead of ME.
4. Finds value in other people’s perspectives, even if they are different from our own.
5. Expects, gives, and receives accountability.
6. Chooses to focus on the positive instead of the negative.
7. Is being honest about our own weaknesses.
8. Knows that growth comes from challenges and failures, yet is comfortable with being uncomfortable.
9. Requires action, not idle talk.
10. Freely gives encouragement and gratitude.
As a firefighter, what does true courage mean to you? Please give us your opinion in the comments section below.
Photos courtesy of Dollar Photo Club