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COURAGE

Definition of the word of the week (COURAGE): Mental or Moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear, pain or difficulty.

The word courage quickly brings to mind images of soldiers in battle fighting against great odds but, nevertheless, achieving victory. We see these images in our minds, on television and at the movies. At present, the media plays a huge role in bringing us images of struggles throughout the world, especially in Iraq. Many of us ask, “How can the members of the Armed Forces continue day after day to fulfill their duty to protect our nation and our interests abroad?” Our vision of what these men and women do is the prevalent concept of what courage is.

When I was young my favorite movie, which has had a lasting effect in my memory, was The Yellow Rose of Texas. My friends and I also relished the Audie Murphy movies. After we saw one of them we were stirred to talk of joining the U.S. Armed Forces in order to go abroad in the name of democracy and justice, to quell or destroy the dark forces of oppression. Many of us have answered that call and shown within our hearts and spirits the best in human character in order to fulfill our dreams.

What does it take to be courageous? Does it mean rushing ahead without trepidation to face any situation? No, that would be foolhardy. Does it mean the absence of fear? Again, no. It means moving ahead toward a goal in spite of fear, danger, pain or difficulty.

Although designated by some as courageous, here are two simple examples of what courage is not. The first is bullying. Bullying is not an indication of courage. Gaining power over someone by physical or mental force is a sign of insecurity that may cause permanent physical or psychic damage to the victim. Another example is sending threatening or bombastic letters or e-mails, whether to politicians with whom we disagree, teachers we do not like, or writing contentious responses to editorials or comments in the public media. I am sure you can think of other examples of false courage from your own experiences.

The battlegrounds of military confrontation have brought forth untold examples of courage. However, courage applies to many other aspects of our daily lives. Courage sets the tone to confront the many choices we have when facing new challenges, change, competition and uncertainty. In addition, it takes courage to stand up for what we believe is right when submission to authority or doing what is called being “politically correct” or not wanting to get involved in an issue would be the easier route. It also prepares us when we have to execute before we feel ready. We can see that courage touches many facets of our lives, particularly when we need moral courage. More than likely these are ordinary times when we don’t think courage enters into the process. But stop and think, we must call upon our moral courage on many occasions and this often means exercising restraint. Whatever the cost of courage in anxiety, effort or insecurity, resolution, perseverance and confidence are their own rewards. Courage is definitely worth cultivating.

The following quotations are intended to assist in explaining and exemplifying the word of the week:

With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be courageous, the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity. Keshavan Nair

Do the thing you are afraid to do and the death of fear is certain. Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the very form of virtue at the testing point. C. S. Lewis

True courage is not the brutal force of vulgar heroes, but the firm resolve of virtue and reason. Alfred North Whitehead

Perfect courage means doing unwitnessed what we would be capable of with the world looking on. François de la Rochefoucault.

Courage is being afraid but going on anyhow. Dan Rather

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. Harper Lee, To Kill a Mocking Bird

MAJ Alling Jones, Georgia Military College Prep School faculty, prepared this study guide as part of the institution’s character education program. Comments or suggestions are welcome at 478-445-2710 or em