“The Brave Coward” tells a story of three friends and their reaction to a situation that requires quick decision and response, both of which have implications for a nearly drowning boy. Heidi, Jill and Jessica react differently after noticing a boy swept by a swirling river, which is sure to kill him if none of them takes action. Heidi takes account of everything that could go wrong with the rescue, besides her lack of swimming prowess and an impending closure of the library, which she wants to reach. Moreover, she has just gotten over a nasty cold, which jumping into the cold river could rekindle. On the other hand, Jill does not think of her actions, jumping into the river to save the boy. She however, knocks her head on the submerged rocks, rendering her unconscious. Jessica, taking in the situation, calculates the speed of the river notices the lifesaver, which she uses to save the boy and pulls Jill, who is unconscious. The actions take place in split seconds, eventually; however, Jessica saves the day ensuring no harm comes to either the boy or Jill.
Heidi is a representation of individuals who take time to plan every course of action, weighing the consequences of each action before making any decision. Nevertheless, while some people weigh option then jump to action, Heidi is cynical, concentrating only on what would go wrong as well as her shortcomings (inability to swim well). Heidi’s obsession with negative consequences of all her action affects her personal response to the events around her. Thus, while her inaction may have dire consequences on the life of the boy, her need for self-preservation causes her inaction. Thinking so much of as little triviality as the closure of the library in the face of someone losing his life speaks volume of her selfishness. Although looking at the big picture would have been helpful in guiding her decision (Dunning 3), the concentration on herself renders her immobile, preventing her from taking the risk to save the boy.
For Jill, saving the life of the boy is worth taking the risk. Despite seeing the dark, swirling river, Jill plunges into it in her attempt to save the boy. While she is brave to go into the river, her action is foolhardy as she almost loses her life. Jill is perhaps compassionate and loving; however, she lets her emotions get the best of her, jumping into action without necessarily thinking of the consequences of her actions. Dunning argues that when faced with such difficult decisions, it is important to take inventory, look at the big picture before taking any action. Relying on logical thinking does not necessary make one weak, but helps in making the right decisions, which will eventually have a positive effect on the individual’s life.
Jessica is the most logical of the three. She assesses the situation and looks for solutions within her vicinity. Besides, Jessica knows her strengths and relies on them. Relatively stable factors can act as anchors in an individual’s life (Dunning 3). Jessica’s strengths include problem solving and swing, which she uses effectively to save the boy and Jill.
The story is a true reflection of life and the different kinds of people that we meet. While some people may have opportunity and means to achieve greater things, they are always cynical; thinking of what might go wrong. These people are afraid of leaving their comfort zones. On the other hand, others make rush decisions, which can have debilitating effects on their lives. The other group sees opportunity and uses its strengths to align themselves to not only the opportunity, but also find a way of making the situation work for them.
Dunning, Donna.Quick Guide to the Four Temperaments and Change: Strategies for Navigating Workplace Change.Telos Publishing, 2004