–Originally published on FWB21 May 30, 2011–
My husband found a gem of a used book for $0.99 at a local bookstore. Its title: The Seven Cardinal Virtues, by James Stalker, D.D. (1902, reprinted 1961). It’s a tiny book and lends itself to reading short excerpts here and there. This morning I just happened to read the section on courage, and I thought the following excerpts are profoundly fitting today’s celebration of those who gave their lives for the freedom of our country:

What, then, is the connection between wisdom and courage? Wisdom, as we saw in the last chapter, is chiefly concerned with the object of existence; it fixes on the supreme good which we decide to pursue. And courage is the force by which the obstacles which impede this pursuit are overcome. It is a kind of indignation , which blazes out against everything which would prevent it from going where duty calls. …

It is highly important to keep this connection between wisdom and courage in view, because it enables us to distinguish between true courage and its counterfeits, of which there are many. No sailor is more resolute in facing the stormy seas than is the pirate in tracking the booty on which he has fixed his cupidity; but we do not honour the resolution of such a human shark with the name of bravery; we call it ferocity. No confessor, championing the truth in the face of principalities and powers, is more sure of his own opinions than is many an ignoramus, who, gifted with nothing but self-conceit and a loud voice, shouts down the argument of all opponents; but we do not call such noisy stubbornness by the name of courage; we call it pig-headedness. …

The truth is, the raw material of courage is neither beautiful nor admirable. It exists in brutes in greater measure than in men. No soldier attacks with the violence of the tiger; no hero stands his ground with the pertinacity of a bull-dog. As the clay requires to have another element transfused through it before it can assume shapes of beauty, so the animal instinct requires to have something higher added before it becomes truly admirable. And this addition is that which wisdom supplies, namely, an end worthy of pursuit. Courage is the power of going forward in spite of difficulties to reach a chosen and worthy object.

The truly brave man is he who loves some worthy object so much that he is willing to risk everything–even life itself–for its attainment.

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