To be courageous is to sense uncertainty, feel fear, perceive the risk and possibility of pain and suffering, and move forwards regardless. To be cowardly is to do the opposite, to flee in the presence of uncertainty, fear and suffering. Of course, this is a rather abstract notion. It’s hard to actually divide up and classify the world into groups of the courageous and the cowardly. One reason for this is that pure cowardice and pure courage don’t really exist.
Take the example of someone running away. To run away from a situation is the leitmotif of cowardice. But more often than not, when we run away, we are also running towards. If I begin a project and it requires me to confront some truths I’d rather avoid, then chances are, I won’t run. To preserve my sense of integrity, I’ll run away from that project by seeking out another one, rationalising my actions and decisions as I go. Thus my running away is not really running away. It’s making a choice to emphasise or prioritise something else, something which just happens to be easier and more comfortable to undertake.
This is how easy it is to deceive ourselves and mask our cowardice with a veneer of courage. Any time we want to run away, it is a simple task to frame it as a need to run towards something else.