COURAGE – The Virtue That Undergirds All Other Virtues

A lion representing courage

DISCIPLESHIP | 3 1/2 Minute Read

Several years ago my friend ended up in hospital.

His wife was worried so we asked if there was anything that we could do.

She asked, as she does not drive and has young children, if I would pick up his phone charger and drive it over to the hospital as he had no phone battery and she was unaware how he was doing.

It was 9 o’clock on a work night.

I had never been to that particular hospital, nor had I ever driven in the city where the hospital was.

The charger in our car didn’t work and I had a low battery, so I would have no satellite navigation or maps to get there and would have to rely on signposts and directions.

Did I mention that I hate driving?

It makes me very anxious.

Every time I get in a car I wonder if I will be another statistic.

All of these excuses swirled in my mind at the thought of making this journey and ultimately I decided to decline.

I did not have the courage to go.

I think about this moment often. About the time that I let down my friend in his time of need.

How necessary is courage? And how do we get it?

Courage and C. S. Lewis

The Screwtape Letters
The above questions came to the fore for me recently when I read the book "The Screwtape Letters" by C. S. Lewis.

C. S. Lewis writes that:
“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.”
I like to think of myself as a kind and generous person, but when faced with my fears (driving lost and alone at night in a strange city with no idea where I’m going) I fell short of these ideals for myself.

Courage then is entirely necessary for our pursuit of the life that Christ desires for us.

What does this kind of courage look like?

Everyday Courage

I have recently finished the book “The Five Second Rule” by Mel Robbins.

It is a book all about the 5 second rule, but alongside that, it is a book about everyday courage.

When we think about courage we often think of grandiose gestures.

George and The Dragon
We think of soldiers going off into battle.

We think of knights slaying dragons.

We think of oppressed people standing up in the face of the oppressors to demand their rights.

All of these are indeed expressions of courage. But they make us feel that courage happens “out there”, it is something that is not often called upon by ordinary people.

Mel stresses that the need for courage is actually all around us.

It takes courage to admit that we need help.

It takes courage to go for the job that we want.

It takes courage to walk across the room and talk to a stranger.

This is everyday courage.

When we remove these examples from our discussion of courage, we rob ourselves of being courageous.

Where Does Courage Come From?

When we combine C. S. Lewis on courage and the idea of everyday courage we see that courage is imperative for following Christ.

We cannot truly be kind without courage.

We cannot truly be loving without courage.

We cannot truly be merciful without courage.

If courage is so important, then where do we get it?

Courage is not a feeling.

We do not wait for courage to bubble up before we act courageously.

Courage is a decision.

It is not the inability to feel fear, but rather, it is the ability to act in spite of fear.

All those years ago, when faced with my decision, I had the choice to listen to my fears or to ignore them and act anyway.

I often wonder, if I knew then what I know now, would I have gone?

I would like to think that the answer is yes.

Courage and Wisdom

Any discussion on courage must necessarily look at its relationship with wisdom.

We have probably all heard the saying “they are either extremely brave or extremely stupid”.

Courage needs to be tempered with wisdom.

Not every act of bravery is right, neither is doing right purely about bravery. Rather we do right, and if necessary, we are brave. The bravery comes in the wake of the doing right, not vice-versa.

Placing ourselves in stupid, dangerous situation for no reason is not true courage and it is important for us to know the difference.

Conclusion

I write these words for the me of several years ago, and I hope that these thoughts will be useful for someone else.

For the courage that we need to go throughout our daily lives. And the courage that we need to be true and authentic followers of Christ.

May we be more courageous in our love, kindness, mercy and grace.

What are your thoughts on courage? I would love to hear them. Leave a comment below!
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