By Engr. Carlos Cornejo
The practice of all virtues requires courage. Courage is needed because what is wrong is easier to do than what is right. The wrong is usually easy and the right is usually hard. It is easy to acquire vices for example because vices involve pleasure such as drugs, alcohol and gambling. But it also gives you the most misery later on. Virtues are harder to do because it requires effort such as the virtue of hard work, humility, honesty, generosity, etc. But virtue also gives you enduring happiness and satisfaction.
It takes courage to be humble because the world is racing towards pride and honor. It takes courage to be honest because cheating, stealing, graft and corruption is rampant. It takes courage to be sincere and truthful because fake news is proliferating. It takes courage to be patient because the world is craving for instant gratification.
Courage is not the same as fearlessness. Fearlessness tends to be defined as not feeling any fear at all. But courage is not the absence of fear but the control of it. It’s not the absence of fear in trying to do the right thing or achieving our goals in life but overcoming fear and not letting it hinder us in taking action. It is “grace under pressure”, as Ernest Hemingway would say. “It is fear that has said its prayers”, according to Donald DeMarco, the author of the book, “The Heart of Virtue.” Aviatrix Amelia Earhart remarked that without courage, personal contentment is not possible. I totally agree with her because personal contentment is tied up to achieving our goals. And having goals in life and trying to reach them is what makes life exciting.
Courage is the middle virtue between two vices of cowardice and recklessness. Cowardice and recklessness are the two contrary vices to courage. Cowardice is giving in to one’s fears and recklessness is courage misplaced or courage without much reflection or prudence.
We tend to think of courage in militaristic terms as a heroic response against fearsome and life-threatening enemies. That of course is perhaps the highest form of courage but the enemies of our daily lives are hardly life-threatening but often times moral-threatening. It is rather the courage of fulfilling our daily duties by the role we have assumed in life as a student, worker or parent. It is overcoming laziness, dishonesty, laxity and impatience in our everyday chores. John F. Kennedy said, “To be courageous, requires no exceptional qualifications, no magic formula, no special combination of time, place and circumstance.” It is to resist the temptation to sacrifice our integrity for instance, for a promise of an easier life. I am referring to graft and corruption that is practiced everywhere. Courage is also to say no to the fleeting pleasures of vices and addiction that destroys both body and soul.
In terms of reaching our goals or growing in character, fear is what hinders us from reaching our potential. Stan Beecham says “We ought to make the conquest of fear one of the primary goals in life.” Another term for fear in this context is being afraid of going out of our comfort zone. When we have the chance to learn more by going to school, become more financially stable by putting up a business, live a happier life by breaking up a bad relationship, and don’t do it, it is because we want to stay in our comfort zone. But the comfort zone is also the dead zone because there is no growth there. The solution is to pray to God for courage because growth is only found outside of the comfort zone. Courage is always ordained towards doing good and not doing bad. Let us learn from the wise counsel of J.W. Dawson who says, “You need not choose evil; but only to fail to choose good, and you drift fast enough towards evil. You do not need to say, ‘I will be bad’. You only have to say, ‘I will not choose God’s choice’, and the choice of evil is already settled.”