The Need for Courage

An Essay posted by dang on February 24, 2023.

Author's Note: I don't include full names on my quotations, but you can find them with a quick Google search.

Courage and fear are everywhere. From forgiveness to fighting, lying to love, hate to hope, courage and fear are mixed in and swirled through all we do, say, and think.

Fear is in the old man at the gym who thinks profanity every other word will cause others to respect him. His fear of losing the physical and verbal prowess he once possessed shouts at us. And rather than respect, we feel pity.

Courage is in the child whose parents wrench him through a divorce. He keeps on going, keeps trying to love both of them the best he can, through the confusion, through the fear.

Fear is in the couple having an argument. He says, "We visit your parents EVERY weekend. I'm sick of it. Can't we relax at home for a change?" But what he really means is, "The big game is today. If we visit your parents, I'll miss most of it." He's worried he'll miss the big game.

There is fear in the man at the DMV counter who blows up at the clerk and demands to see a manager. The man thinks he's simply angry—not scared. But he just waited two hours to renew his license and they told him he doesn't have the right documents. Now he's sick inside—with fear—that he might have to go home, find the documents, and wait another two hours. And so he's aggressive—from fear.

There is courage in the child at swimming lessons who will only jump into the pool if the instructor stands six inches from the edge to catch him. Does this boy realize he is more courageous in jumping the six inches than the little girl before him who jumped two feet and laughed as she did it?

Yes, we are immersed in a world of courage and fear. But is courage necessary? Is giving in to fear really injurious in any major way? Should courage necessarily be the first virtue on our development list? Do we really need it?


We witness corporations plundering their employees and shareholders, an occurrence so unremarkable we read the news and go on. But when we learn of secrets kept and cover-ups perpetrated by many people on many levels through multiple organizations, we shudder and cry: Was there not a single person with enough courage to stand up for truth?

A sports figure accused of using banned substances denies and denies until finally, years later, she confesses. Can't there be disclosure from conscience rather than accusation? Can't there be confession simply for the sake of morality, whether the deed will ever be discovered or not? We need courage, the courage of truth.

If there is one thing upon this earth that mankind love and admire better than another, it is a brave man — a man who dares look the devil in the face and tell him he is the devil. —Garfield

An environmental group and a corporation each propose legislation. Both feel the other's legislation blocks their interests. Both groups mock, belittle, and thwart the other's proposals.

Each group is so swallowed up in fear, they can't examine the almost limitless potential ideas that could address both sides' requests. We need courage, the courage to find and embrace new ideas.

The trouble about this country is its mental timidity. Physical courage — yes, I suppose it's got its share of that, perhaps a little more than its share, but put it to face a new idea and it goes all of a tremble. —Palmer

A young man has been taught from a child to hate another race. He realizes he needs to change but finds it frightening to alter those concepts so deeply ingrained within him; they seem to be a very part of his nature.

At some point, though, we all must learn some doors should never be opened; some paths never walked; some deeds never done; some words never spoken; some thoughts never entertained. We need the courage to face up to and make needed changes.

It takes a brave man to look into the mirror of his own soul to see written there the disfigurements caused by his own misbehavior. —Sheen

A salesman is "offered" a new position within his current company. The position requires constant travel. He previously promised his children he would never agree to such an arrangement, but facing unemployment, he is suddenly unsure. We need courage, the courage to say, "No."

Why do our wisest, strongest and ablest leaders avoid political leadership? Where are the Lincolns, the Washingtons, those with the moral courage needed to pilot us through our current difficulties? Are they too frightened of the scars of politics? We need those with courage, courage to say, "Yes."

Decisions are constantly before us. To make them wisely, courage is needed: the courage to say, "No," the courage to say, "Yes"... The call for courage comes constantly to each of us. —Monson

Our constancy (or lack thereof) in courage stands almost without equal in that which will decide our victories or failures. Courage is the very bedrock on which we can build the most important structures of our lives. Its absence leads to the fall of those structures in the face of storms: no solid foundation, no ability to withstand the major difficulties of life. And so we fail at what might have been. We need courage, the courage to become what we might be.

A great deal of talent is lost to the world for want of a little courage. Every day sends to their graves obscure men whose timidity prevented them from making a first effort; who, if they could only have been induced to begin, would in all probability have gone great lengths in the career of fame. —Smith

Scorners are innumerable today. How clever they think to be in pointing out the failures of those in the arena actually doing something. Rather than those who point out the obvious boundaries of our current abilities, we need those with the courage and vision to live beyond those boundaries.
We need courage, the courage to attempt, to try, and then try again. We need courage, the courage to ignore the naysayers.

Those in this world who have the courage to try and solve in their own lives new problems of life are the ones who raise society to greatness! Those who merely live according to rule do not advance society, they only carry it along. —Gandhi

A child is offered her first cigarette; a junior high student is invited to do drugs with his friends; a high school student is mocked for not shoplifting alcohol. Youth is such a critical age to develop courage; youth is such a crucial age to practice virtue. We need courage, courage in the next generation.

"Bon Courage" Rodin says to me sometimes, for no apparent reason when we part in the evening, even when we have been talking of very good things; he knows how necessary that is, every day, when one is young. —Rilke

The courage of truth; the courage for new ideas; the courage to face up to and make needed changes; the courage to become what we might be; the courage to say, "No;" the courage to say, "Yes;" the courage to attempt; and attempt again; the courage to ignore the naysayers; courage in the next generation; the courage of freedom; the courage of leadership. These are but a taste, a mere hint at our need for courage.

Courage isn't just an interesting or admired philosophical concept; nor is it unimportant, semi-important, or even important. It goes beyond important: it is crucial; it is essential—essential to our victory in life. And although gaining courage does not guarantee that victory, the absence of courage guarantees failure.

Can we see, do we understand, that we will progress as a race only to the degree we progress in courage? We constantly move forward in science, education, and technology. Our potential for travel, nutrition, relaxation, sociality, pleasure, communication, and commerce is unequaled in history. But what about virtue? What about courage?

Throughout its history, our world has flirted with it, eyed it from a distance, serviced it with lips, even admired and praised it, but never embraced it as a whole. Rather than occasional bursts of speed or sporadic pursuit, we need steadiness, constancy. Constancy in courage. Only then will we begin, individually and collectively, to arrive at and achieve who and what we can be.

It is time to raise the most courageous generation ever. Can't we sense that our children and their children will need a level of courage never before reached in this world? We must first explode through the ceiling of our own courage levels and then instill and teach even greater levels in the generations to come.

Then we will have prepared our posterity to face anything. When we and they are tested, when the true contents of our characters are revealed, we will face life with gladness, not sorrow, at who we really are.

Great occasions do not make heroes or cowards; they simply unveil them to the eyes of men. —Westcott

And future generations can look back on ours and rejoice that finally in its history, our earth produced men and women wise enough, strong enough, and, yes, courageous enough, to embrace and perpetuate constancy in courage.