Let’s face it – life is not easy, and it was even more difficult through human history.
It takes a lot of guts to live a human life – even an average one, let alone one riddled with difficulties. It is no wonder that people of all castes, creeds, and civilizations have devised a number of symbols of courage and resilience to empower them along the way.
Let’s learn something about the symbols of courage and resilience that have helped so many people to hang in there through the hardships over so many centuries.
Maybe they will help you too.
Symbols of Courage
Traditionally used in battles and by fighters, today, symbols of courage have much broader use. From competitions of various kinds to personal struggles, courage symbols are there to empower people on their way to what they consider is a success.
Let’s explore some notable courage symbols.
The borage flower sort of rhymes with courage, and that is a either happy accident or there is really something behind it.
The connection of borage with courage probably comes from its psychotropic effect. Said to relieve melancholy and bring on a good mood when ingested (but please don’t try this at home), these flowers have a history of being used by military men.
Ancient Celts used to put borage in wine to increase their bravery before the battle. Ancient Romans ate the flowers and the leaves directly before entering a battle. And, in order to be courageous, the Medieval knights used to wear scarves with borage sewn into them. That is why it has become a symbol of bravery and courage.
Besides courage, borage flowers were considered to bring peace and tranquility to one’s home. Also, borage can symbolize romantic longing and was a quite popular poetic image in German Romanticism.
Although shorter than the mighty sword, a dagger is a stronger symbol of courage in the world of heraldic symbolism. Why is that?
Although not instantly obvious, the reason is quite simple. While you can get your opponent from farther reach with a sword, using a dagger demands an up-close fight, face-to-face warfare – and that takes a lot of courage.
Concluding why a lion would be considered a symbol of courage is quite intuitive. This powerfully strong animal is often seen fighting to defend and protect its pride. Their physical, muscle strength, and large teeth and claws are also empowering symbols to humans.
Somewhat ironically, although the male lion is the most commonly featured symbol of courage and strength, it is the lioness who is the more courageous gender among lions. Female lions are fiercely loyal to the pack, hardworking hunters, and extremely brave mothers. Although smaller and less equipped for fighting, the mother-lioness will fight against an unfriendly male lion if he goes against her cubs.
On the other hand, male lions are known for their constant struggle for dominance and fierce fights among individual males. That is where the main inspiration for a lion as a symbol of courage comes from.
Red is considered a particular color associated with courage and bravery. It is no wonder that red was used by various militaries and revolutionary movements throughout history – from being incorporated into official uniforms (remember the Red Musketeer?) to insignia such as flags.
If we look at the psychological effect of red, it is no wonder this is so. Red energizes, agitates, and puts one into action mode. It is the color of blood, which is not to be overlooked when we know that most courage symbols originated from warfare use.
However, that is what brings us to the darker shades of red, so to speak (although ironically these would be more soothing to the eye). Red is also known to bring out aggression in people. It is the color of rage and passion, of love and of and of danger. As you see, it can have many faces.
Still, red is one of the most popular colors on national flags, in graphic design, in many areas of life. I guess that we all covet a bit more courage, passion, and other energizing sensations in our lives.
Symbols of Resilience
In times of major global disturbances such as pandemics, climate change, and the resulting economic instability, resilience is becoming one of the main modern virtues – it offers a way out of difficult situations, a light at the end of the tunnel.
Let’s see what some of the main symbols of resilience are.
Helix is one of nature’s most omnipresent shapes. From the DNA to snail shells, to fern shoots, vines, blooms – all of these structures, and many more, have helix as their base. Even human fingerprints actually have a helix as their central structure.
Because the symbol is so overpowering and seems to be a perfect solution for many structural issues in nature, it has become a symbol of resilience with ease – and one of the top ones as well.
It is no wonder that the shape was also co-opted by human art and architecture – helix is a foundation for many architecture pieces, especially spiritual buildings such as churches and mosques.
The point of a helix as a resilience symbol is that it is highly stable and can withstand all tests – evolutionary and chronological ones.
Do you know the expression “rising up from the ashes like a phoenix?”
If you do, it is likely that you are already aware of why this mythical creature is one of the key symbols of resilience. What is more resilient than beating death?
The Phoenix is a mythical bird with origins in Greek mythology. Its main trait is that it can burst into flames, turn into ashes like all mortal beings, but with a twist – it can rise from its ashes. The Greeks were actually inspired by observing the aftermath of wildfires common in the Mediterranean – seeing how nature regenerates itself from literal ashes.
I have just described the mythological image that makes Phoenix a symbol of resilience, perseverance, and strength. That is why it is a symbol commonly used within names and signs of organizations of people that are hoping to win a great personal fight – a life-threatening disease, disability, or when fighting for a difficult cause.
The semicolon is probably the most recently evolved resilience symbol on the list. Never before has a punctuation mark become a major symbol in culture, and this one is spreading fast.
The semicolon is used, because of its symbolism, by people who have chosen to face their major issues, usually related to mental health issues such as depression, substance abuse, and anxiety. It is also a symbol of survival because it is often used by the individuals who have survived a suicide attempt, representing that the ordeal was not the end and a reminder that there should not be an abrupt end. It is about the resilience shown in the face of one of the hardest human experiences.
If you see a person using this sign on social media or wearing it on their body, my advice is to be mindful and respectful of the potentially triggering topics around mental health and suicide.
Symbols of Courage and Resilience
Although there are many overlaps between resilience and courage symbols, I have picked one that is very obviously a combination, because of its chimeral nature.
Behold, one of the best-known mythical creatures – the Griffin.
This mythical creature is a combination of a lion and an eagle. Specifically, it has the body of a lion and the wings and the head of an eagle; sometimes, the eagle’s talons are represented instead of the lion’s front feet.
Both animals can be symbols of strength and courage, but the eagle leans slightly more to the side of resilience and strength, while the lion is perceived as strong and courageous.
It is thought that the idea of Griffin evolved in the ancient Levant in the second millennium BC precisely to represent both of these virtues.
To add to their image, Griffins are rarely represented as passive and stagnant (although they can be – in the form of a guardian statue). Instead, their wings and claws are usually spread, beaks open, and they seem to be fully ready to attack, defend, and fly away. We can easily see the ideas of courage and resilience reflected in this concept.
We all face difficulties in our lives, and sometimes, small thighs make a difference. When you’re low down and don’t know how to go on, just being exposed to and inspired by courage and resilience symbols – especially through art, music, and literature – can have a profound effect on one’s well-being.
Also, just studying the meanings behind these symbols can also inspire you and empower you to feel more courage and resilience in your life. That is what happened to me while writing this article.
Did you feel the same while reading it? Do you have a courage or resilience symbol that has helped you on your path? Please share your story in the comments – we’re listening.