And, we’re back again! A post on Moral Courage

First off, my apologies for the shortage of posts lately. I determined when I began the blog that I would rather post when I had something worth posting about than to post endlessly just so I would have something here. I hope that I haven’t lost any readers with that decision, and also hope I may gain some new ones!

As of late I have re-read To Kill a Mockingbird and the story never fails to make me pause and consider my own views on issues in life, and where I stand on them. I don’t hold myself, as a father, to the “gold standard” of Atticus Finch; he was a literary character, and as such, is an example but not real. I do, however, see in him many of the standards of moral courage that I am trying to teach to my sons, and also to model in my own life. The image attached to this blog, a quote from General George S. Patton, Jr., says that “Moral courage is the most valuable and usually the most absent characteristic in men.” In our age, especially, that seems to be so. It has become much easier to “go with the flow,” “not make waves,” “just get along,” or the ever popular “show tolerance,” instead of taking a stand, when appropriate, and realizing that that stand does not make you evil, hateful, bigoted, or any of the other buzzwords thrown at people who go against the societal norms. I believe that moral courage transcends those things – those constructs of society – and as such is not only a very freeing thing, but an encouraging one. Ultimately, I believe it to be a more fulfilling one.

Few of us, to be sure, will be called upon to demonstrate moral courage in a situation as dire as the one in which Atticus Finch found himself. He was a lawyer, called upon to defend a black man accused of raping a white woman in the segregation era South of the 1930’s. He did so to the absolute best of his abilities, despite the disapproval of his neighbors, abuse and in some cases, potential for bodily and familial injury that came his way. He did so because he, as a character, possessed moral courage; he did what he knew to be right rather than what was popular or acceptable. (Let’s remember – at this time, racism was institutionalized. It was, for the most part, an accepted way of life.) Few of us will be called upon to demonstrate the kind of moral courage of those who hid people during World War II when the Nazis came to haul them off to the death camps. Despite this, I contend that there are everyday chances to demonstrate and show this type of courage, even without such dramatic and dire circumstances. Here are some examples, taken from a webpage/blog that I ran across at www.lionswhiskers.com:

Moral courage looks like:

  • helping someone push a car out of a snowbank, even if it means being late
  • standing up to a bully on the playground
  • picking up litter
  • doing homework or chores without being reminded
  • refusing to listen to or repeat gossip
  • practicing what you preach, even when no-one is looking or knows
  • turning in a toy or a wallet to the Lost and Found
  • a teen who calls home for a ride from a party where alcohol is being served
  • a teacher who gives all students an equal voice regardless of race, socioeconomic status, religion, gender or sexual orientation
  • a company whistle blower risking job loss, financial cost, and or legal repercussion
  • reporting a crime
  • participating in a peaceful protest

Lack of moral courage looks like:

  • walking away from someone in need
  • taking more than your fair share
  • laughing at someone’s misfortune or accident
  • grabbing the spotlight from someone who has earned it
  • placing too much reliance on the letter rather than the spirit of the law
  • remaining silent in the face of wrong-doing or injustice
  • rationalizations or justifications for action/lack of action
  • being inconsistent or capricious with rules and standards for our children
  • choosing sides after seeing which way the wind is blowing
  • breaking a promise
  • lying or cheating

A lack of moral courage, although not mentioned on the above page, also can be refusing to “judge,” either as a way of shirking expressing a personal belief or opinion, or avoiding personal responsibility. It can be demonstrated by those who justify violence, destruction and/or violent protests under the banner of “We’ve been wronged” or “This is justice.” It can also show itself as being an apologist for those who do it, too, as opposed to calling it what it is. That’s something to consider, eh?

I leave you with this – from that same page – the definition listed there of what moral courage is. It is defined as:
doing the right thing even at the risk of inconvenience, ridicule, punishment, loss of job or security or social status, etc.  Moral courage requires that we rise above the apathy, complacency, hatred, cynicism, and fear-mongering in our political systems, socioeconomic divisions, and cultural/religious differences.  For parents, it frequently requires us to put aside compelling but momentary pleasures or comforts in order to set a good example for our children and  be the parents we aspire to be.  Doing the right thing means listening to our conscience, that quiet voice within.  Ignoring that voice can lead to feelings of inadequacy, guilt and diminished personal integrity.  Moral courage requires us to make judgments about what actions or behaviors are supportive of our highest ideals, and which ones are destructive.  It asks us to recognize our responsibilities and see the consequences of our own actions.

Now, friends – armed with this, and knowing it – what will you do, the next time you have the opportunity? Will you show that moral courage or will you take the easy way, go with the flow, not make waves, and walk away? Remember – these are questions that I first ask MYSELF – so I’m right there with you!

I know my answer. What’s yours?

God bless today, my friends!