Courage is a highly admired virtue. Most often we associate the word with physical prowess or bravery. But there’s another form of valour that’s much more important because it comes up more often. It’s called moral courage – the willingness to face not physical danger but emotional pain, disapproval, financial insecurity, or uncertainty rather than compromise an ethical principle.
Moral courage is essential not only for a virtuous life, but a happy one. Without courage, we have no control over our lives. Our fears corrode our spirit and confine us like a barbed wire fence. That’s why they say a coward dies a thousand deaths, a brave man but one.
Integrity is essential to self-esteem and the admiration of others. It requires us to put our comforts, possessions, friendships, and even jobs at risk in the defence of deeply held principles.
It takes moral fortitude to be honest at the risk of ridicule, rejection, or retaliation or when doing so may jeopardize our income or career. It takes boldness to be accountable and own up to mistakes when doing so may get us in trouble. It takes backbone to stand tough with our kids when doing so may cost us their affection.
Mark Twain said, ‘Courage is not the absence of fear but the resistance of fear, the mastery of fear.’ To paraphrase President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the enemy is not what we fear; it is fear itself. If our insecurities and anxieties cause us to lose confidence in the power of virtue, we will lose something very precious.
People with moral courage rarely get medals, but it is the best marker of true character and a virtue others can be proud of.
Written by Michael Josephson