Courage, bravery and valor are basically synonymous but there are different types of courage.
Physical courage is the type involved in overcoming the fear of physical injury or death in order to save others or one self.
Moral courage entails maintaining ethical integrity at the risk of losing friends, employment, privacy or prestige. In its most classic form, physical courage is the valor on the battlefield.
Cicero defined courage to include physical valor, yes, but also integrity and perseverance, any act of willfully overcoming your own security, comfort, complacency to achieve a greater good. Cicero meant courage is doing what is right even when one has much to lose.
Moral courage often relates to fear of others’ opinions. Looking foolish before peers, for example is a common fear. But moral courage compels an individual to do what he or she believes is right, despite fear of social or economic consequences.
Courage is reflected in acts that ignore your own needs and serve others first. Your acts of courage create a bond with your classmates, fellow-soldiers, and fellow-citizens. Courage can be promoted by practice (moral habit) by example (modeling) and by developing certain attributes of the individual (self-confidence).
Persistence, perseverance, industrious… finishing what you start; persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles; taking pleasure in completing tasks.
So do you need to cultivate the virtue of courage? How do you plan to do so? Might you share with us examples of courage in your lives? Might working on courage today prepare you for you challenges in your future?
After conducting several interviews with our nation’s wounded warriors, reading their stories, and meeting many in the organizations serving them, I am left with amazement and deep respect for the valor and physical bravery of our nations military. Each wounded warrior I interviewed told me, in a matter of fact way, that they were trained to fearlessly run toward the sound of bullets. What motivated their singular ability to do this were these factors: they loved their country more than they feared for their lives; they valued loyalty to fellow-warriors more than securing their own safety; and, they all were, and remain, committed to defending America’s freedom–a cause greater than their individual self-interests.
Later, as I got to personally know many of these wounded warriors, I witnessed example after example of sheer moral courage. I wanted to know what character traits enabled these heroes to successfully recover from traumatic injuries? How did they develop their virtues of perseverance, resoluteness, steadfastness and patience? Their physical stamina was enough to admire by itself, but where did they get the courage, the moral strength to persevere through the rehabilitation of their traumatic injuries?
Through The Character Building Project web site and its Facebook link, my relationships grew within the wounded warrior community. These relationships drove me to better understand the virtue of courage. I penned some of my reflections and identified relevant articles on the site’s Character Blog. Two descriptions of courage seemed to best reflect the extreme circumstances these wounded warriors face daily: Euripides describes courage as “to bear unflinchingly what heaven sends,” and Nietzsche declares “what does not kill me, makes me stronger.”
Euripides’ definition captures the resoluteness and patient acceptance that I noted in the recovering warriors. Many expressed that their injuries happened for a reason. They accept their fate and believe they possess the will power to see their recoveries to a successful outcome. And Nietzsche’s description of how a person can be stronger after a defining moment like traumatic injury is reminiscent of the conscious decision made by courageous wounded warriors to make it through their recoveries successfully, in spite of all obstacles.
The amazing recoveries I have witnessed among our country’s warriors with character do not happen by chance. They are a result of deep moral strength in a warrior that results in determined behavior. Those warriors who make successful recoveries—and many do not–already possess an incredible level of self-discipline and courage. Warriors with character make a conscious choice to survive well. They also are reinforced by a good deal of professional and family support. Interestingly, many of the key caregivers involved in recovery success stories also are persons of exemplary courage and discipline. For both the warrior and the loved one who provides daily care and support, the focus is not on self-pity for the traumatic injuries that happened to them, but rather, it is on the plan to handle the injuries and recover.
Traumatic injuries can subvert the most disciplined efforts and will power, yet the warriors with character refuse to be imprisoned by them. They do not give in to the inherent unfairness of life. Rather they seize their injuries with strength of mind and body and manage to thrive in the face of adversity. They don’t plead bad luck, nor do they squander their rehabilitation but subordinated it all to their will power and make recovery their next great achievement.
From the wounded warriors, I have learned that courage involves much more than being brave in battle. Having recognized this myself I want to make the civilian population aware of the moral courage that abounds among the 47,000 wounded warriors who are returning home. In an effort to raise visibility for our wounded warriors I will publish representative success stories of warriors with character with the hope that others will join me in helping our heroes. They deserve nothing less.
A recent post asked, how will your obituary be written? Ever since being university trained by the Jesuits and more recently after reading Cicero’s, “On a Life Well Spent,” I have purposely devoted much thought to the closely related question of “What makes life worth living?” Continue reading
What story will be written in your obituary? Will it consist only of the facts, where you lived, worked and died, or will your story be something more meaningful? Will your life story peak at our career success or will it encompass true character growth honed by ethical life choices made under pressure? Continue reading
Many posts on the Character Building Project (CBP) focus upon ways one can correct actions in order to be better (or, if not better, at least not as bad). Our strategy is to first identify what is wrong, and then point the reader toward a better way, our shared positive moral Judeo-Christian culture. Continue reading
The movie , Mattias Caro, our guest blogger has chosen today is Rudy. This was the first movie the Notre Dame administration allowed to be shot on campus since Knute Rockne, All American in 1940. Rudy had a dream: play College football for the greatest team in the world, Notre Dame. But the last thing Rudy appeared to be was a football player. He was five-foot nothing, a hundred and nothing, a literal tackling dummy of a boy.
The good news is Google analytics reveals the visitor rate on our blog grows each week since our launch on St. Patrick’s Day. Further good news is comments and suggestions on the blog come to me, unfortunately through emails, not simply by posting on the blog. The bad news is visitors either do not know how to post a comment or think they must identify themselves when they do.
The past week’s series of blogs brought many comments, especially those asking more about actual virtues of the featured in characters in Politics with Principle. I will respond to this request in two ways: first by commenting further today on a list of virtues practiced; secondly, by including in the next few weeks the profiles of the ten characters on the site.
Here is a list of ten instances of practicing virtue by my Characters with Character.
1. Their self-image and habits seem to go together. Their habits are literally the garments worn by their personalities. Note Ann Bingaman’s early entrepreneurial skills in building her own law firm.
2. They are goal oriented. See Admiral Lynch’s mantra… “Ship. Shipmate, Self.”
3. By living well in the present, they do the most within their power to make tomorrow better. Paul Eckstein has had a 40year legal career with basically one law firm but has made time for charitable, community and religious activities in spite of his busy practice.
4. They are not afraid to make mistakes, because they learn from their mistakes and mistakes can make you better but mistakes do not make you. Note Ambassador Carlson’s willingness to switch careers leading to new opportunities.
5. My Characters are not reactors but actors. See the example of Bill Bulger seizing the initiative on his own by switching high schools without having the means to pay for a private school.
6. All ten are forward not backward looking. They do not wallow in lost campaigns but move forward. Charlie Black has managed losing campaigns that later became winning campaigns e.g. Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaigns
7. They accept challenges and turn adversity into opportunities; as we witness, Tom Bliley’s bi-partisan effectiveness whether he was Committee Chairman in the majority or when he was in the minority.
8. They persevere notwithstanding discouragement as Senator Rick Santorum eventually proved with the passage of the partial birth abortion legislation.
9. They accept themselves as they are as evidenced by Chuck Manatt, still maintaining his Iowa farm roots after being National Party Chairman, big time banker and an Ambassador.
10. Having opposed his party’s President in matters of principle, Senator Ben Cardin has lived our motto…” It doesn’t matter who is right but what’s right.”
Politics with Principle profiles these ten characters and examines their practice of virtue as they competed in the political arena.
Yesterday’s post spoke of the foundation stones of good character: prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude as well as the virtues of magnanimity and humility, the fruits of the cardinal virtues. Continue reading
I have been thinking about an earlier tea party, the one in Boston (December 16, 1773) and the parallels with the current tea party movement. Continue reading
Yesterday I was reflecting on the tragic murder of Yeardley Love, the dreadful crime scene and the fact that a UVA lacrosse star has been charged with the slaying of his fellow student. While the authorities sort out the facts of the case and the university community mourns Ms. Love’s tragic death, I was reminded of a recent post discussing the standard of self-control versus self-expression. Continue reading