Courage is the character trait for October in the Orangeburg County Community of Character campaign. It is an interesting choice for a month in which politicians prepare to face the voters -- and each other -- in some nasty campaigns that will culminate in early November's general election. Increasingly, it takes courage to be a candidate.
Beyond politics, there are some points to be made about why courage qualifies as a positive character trait. There are indications that courage is driven by possessing a host of other positive character traits previously featured in the character campaign.
Writing in The Journal of Positive Psychology in 2007, S. Hannah, P.J. Sweeney and P.B. Lester in an article titled "Toward a courageous mindset: The subjective act and experience of courage," make the point that personality traits, self-efficacy, hope, resilience, values, beliefs and social forces all drive the development of courage.
"How does a firefighter steal themselves to enter a burning building? How does an anxious person pluck up the courage to introduce themselves to a stranger? How does a severely depressed individual find the strength to go through the motions of another day? All require courage, but courage is an elusive quality," they write.
The writers point to three primary character traits thought important in courage:
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1. Openness to experience: "This trait is associated with both divergent thinking, e.g. brainstorming, and the related idea of creativity. Being courageous, then, is all about having options, and in order to generate those options you need to be creative."
2. Conscientiousness: "The conscientious are dependable people who feel a sense of duty towards themselves and others. They get the job done."
3. Core self-evaluation: "These include traits like emotional stability and internal locus of control. An internal locus of control refers to a feeling of control over situations."
The three components are "traits," meaning they are thought to be relatively stable across situations. And because they are traits, they can be developed by individuals through effort. That is what the character campaign is all about.