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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
The Cambridge dictionary officially describes it as: a person who is not brave and is too eager to avoid danger, difficulty, or pain.

What I wonder is how this plays out in real life situations. What acts would a coward typically commit?

To me, a definitive presentation is that of a person who is unable to take responsibility in their life, or will always blame others.
I recently saw a thread on shooter Elliot Rodgers. I find him to be a terrific example of this. Always blaming everyone else for his misfortune, yet making no effort whatsoever.

Contrary to the belief of some people, suicide is not always a cowardly act. Depressed people who are suicidal, they usually are doing what they think is the right thing (it makes sense to them that their family, their friends, the world would actually be happier with them gone).
However, if a person is guilty of a crime, has been convicted, and then has hung themselves in their cell to avoid punishment, that presents much more as a coward to me.
 

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It's certainly subjective, but I'd consider those who routinely reject principled/responsible behaviors (with the full knowledge of them being so) in favor of the easiest and most personally-favorable action, to be cowards. It overlaps with opportunism, with the exception that "cowards" are judged for their lack of courage, so it becomes partly a question of ethics/morality (certainly, there are many times in life that the more courageous or responsible action is the one that may result in some degree of personal harm).

The kid who stands by and watches bullies physically bully while doing nothing (not even alerting teachers)? Coward.
The guy who dumps his girlfriend because his douche friends gave him shit about her being ugly or something, and he liked her but not enough to stand up to them? Coward (and an ass).
Healthy women who feel the need to put on makeup every single day because they are desperately frightened of how society will perceive them otherwise (instead of learning how to face their personal insecurities and scant degree of social rejection)? Cowards.

Now, if for example in the first case, instead of bullying the event was that some gang initiates in a school somewhere jumped a kid and started slashing him - I can understand the bystander not wanting to be personally involved (though I'd still maintain they should alert someone with more power, if possible).

As I've said, this is a subjective interpretation. In this case, I'm noting behaviors that may seem even normal, but are based in an unwillingness to confront uncertainty, potential rejection, some other unfavorable outcome - but I limit my interpretation to specifically when there are no physical dangers present (or other highly negative outcomes that far outweigh the principled approach). I wouldn't consider it "cowardice" to not become embroiled in a situation that might continuously negatively affect someone down the line, and of course, it's necessary to know how to pick one's battles.

Needless to say, I think the vast majority of people are cowards because they will favor the "easier" path over the one that takes some courage and personal integrity.
 

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I see it as someone who won't rise to meet the challenges and responsibilities that life throws at them. I guess that goes along with the "too eager to avoid danger, difficulty, or pain" thing.
 

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Coward is actually sort of hard to define for me, it's certainly subjective. Thinking about it I realize that though I have no rigid definition of cowardice I recognize it when I see it.

Real life situations where I've recognized cowardice.
In the service when I was sent to war one of our unit split, not because of a moral or ethical objection, but because he didn't want to risk being hurt or killed. I understand self preservation instinct, but if he didn't have the stones he shouldn't have joined, it was all volunteer after all. His going awol left our unit short on personnel and forced the rest of us to assume an added risk.

Another time I was involved in a serious accident on the flight deck, a plane crashed and a major fire started, carnage followed. I know at least a few of the flight deck personnel hid rather than aid the rest of us in combating the fire. This was cowardice, they were afraid, I doubt there were any of us who weren't afraid though. A major fire in a small area (4 acres) covered with armed jets, fuel hoses, liquid oxygen and various ordnance is a scary situation, you'd be a fool not to be afraid. Courage however isn't the absence of fear, its the compliment to it, cowardice is abandoning oneself to ones fear. I guess then thats my definition of cowardice.
 

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Sometimes, it's someone who openly and publicly vows to do something, and ends up making excuses for not doing it.

Other times, it's someone who knows what they're doing is hurting/going to hurt others, but does it anyway for the sake of short-lived personal gratification.

A coward's definition can change depending on context.
 

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To me a coward is a person that incorrectly or unwisely feels that attempting to stand up to whatever is feared will be too difficult in any way.

THis has three forms:

1 - Lack of guts - The person is genuinely terrified and just cannot seem to muster confidence.
2 - Lack of reason - The person is terrified without any meaningful cause. A phobia. Irrational fear.
3 - Lack of desire - The person will not stand for anything because they are passionless. They may have plenty of reason, indeed reason that they should not be the one to exhibit courage (let someone else do it). This person is lazy in boldness and probably too active in reason. Imbalance. I detest this third type.
 

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Someone who shoots you on the back verbally or literally. Someone who lacks a conviction to stand up against a tyrant, a bigot, or a racist. People who cover their own butts while they let others suffer.
 

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A coward is someone who allows others to suffer, die, or endure oppression for the sake of his or her own physical or emotional safety.
 

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I've heard of all kinds of definitions, some of them quite bizarre:

A person who shy's from their (situational) role.
Someone afraid of violence.
Anyone who is not ambitious.

It's all dependant on who is doing the accusing, and what they are trying to protect or express.

When I think someone is being a coward, it is usually a case of me making a judgement that an abuse of power has occurred; that the offender is abusing or hiding behind or manipulating their social status to opress other people for their gain. But if the reason they are doing that is because they are less able in some basic human way, then it would be me being the coward by accusing them of not being as strong as me. Alternately, if they were "evil", and not weakened in some way, then it would just be them being them, and neither of us would be cowards. Limitations are everywhere. Strength is relative. While the effects of "cowardice" can be clear and damaging, at a theoretical level I'm not sure that it even exists.
 

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I don't know. Conformists can be viewed as cowardly from my perspective because they're too afraid to stand up and be different, but I think a lot of times it is just ignorance.
 

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It's an insult really. I don't think I can define it in a neutral way.
 

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Mama says being afraid doesn't make you a coward. What makes you a coward is letting your fear dictate your actions.
Your mama is wise! My papa agrees!
 

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People who plot against someone's weaknesses and then act like masterminds once they have. Like no... you're not a mastermind. You're a simple-minded coward.
 
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