I’ve just been reading a book about the Welsh Guards in Afghanistan in 2009. Unlike all-too-many of the Canadian books about the conflict, not all the men in this book were paragons of courage and professionalism. I liked that. And the book got me thinking about courage and bravery again. The book reminded me of some things I’d forgotten. It’s generally accepted wisdom that courage/bravery is something like a water well or a bank account. If too many withdrawals are made, it will run dry. There is a limit to how many times a person can go out there and face death. Some people’s reserve runs out sooner than is the case with others but no-one can go on for ever. It occurs to me that courage/bravery is also like a piece of elastic. It can stretch so far and then if it snaps, it’s all over. A piece of elastic kept at full tension will snap sooner than one that is allowed to contract once in a while. That’s why getting away from the action for a short while can be beneficial. The water well/bank account will not be completely replenished by the break but increases enough to delay the crisis of courage. With luck once back in harness, the crisis point is not reached before the danger has passed and no-one need know how close a person came to snapping. Gradually, over time, the reserve slowly trickles back to something near its original level. And the past is mis-remembered to create a more comfortable self-narrative. Sometimes the biggest lies we tell are the lies we tell ourselves to help make it through the working day.