“It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare,” wrote Mark Twain more than a century ago.
If moral courage means knowing what’s right and both doing it and defending it in despite fear or obstructions, would you say we’ve improved over the years? My heart wants to say yes but my head tells me no. Every day seems to bring distressing news of moral courage in decline.
Crime is soaring in major cities while “progressive” elites make excuses for it. They even go after law-abiding citizens exercising their Second Amendment rights to protect themselves from the mob. This is neither moral nor courageous.
And then there’s the Biden administration. It’s only seven months’ old but already, we could write volumes about its moral cowardice. Think Afghanistan—and the shameful way we skedaddled, leaving those who helped us to face torture and death.
In government schools and universities, a far-Left socialist bias produces droves of students who hate America even as they know less about it than any generation in our history. Toxic “political correctness” from academia stifles speech and thought but millions of Americans are afraid to speak out against this lest they be vilified as enemies of “education.” But if American history should teach us anything, it ought to be that speaking truth to power is moral courage at its finest.
When we see acts of moral courage, we should recognize and applaud those who show it. We should feel emboldened to practice more of it ourselves.
Moral Courage Examples
Here’s an example. It happened 13 months ago but it’s still front-and-center in my mind. The story comes from Kansas City, Missouri. A struggling, single, black mother named Shetara Sims, who lost her job last summer and her daughter to street violence a few years ago, did an incredible thing. She had only seven dollars to her name but when she found a dollar bill on the ground, she bought a lottery ticket and won $100. Amazingly, she donated her entire winnings to help a police officer who had been shot in the head a few days before.
Shetara had no obligation to make that donation and she surely has bills of her own to pay. It wouldn’t have been wrong in any way if she had spent the winnings on herself. She was appreciative of the way the police handled the death of her daughter back in 2012 and in a small way, this gift enabled her to express that appreciation. People of solid character, who put a premium on what’s right and moral, tend to be good people too. The Kansas City police responded by forming a GoFundMe page with a goal to raise $10,000 for Shetara. To date, it has generated more than $167,000. Goodness begets goodness.
Here’s a story from 30 years ago, one that I’ve told and re-told a hundred times. The setting was the little town of Conyers, Georgia—a town full of salt-of-the-earth, self-reliant and patriotic citizens. When school officials there discovered that one of their basketball players who had played 45 seconds in the first of the school’s five post-season games had actually been scholastically ineligible, they returned the state championship trophy the team had just won a few weeks before. If they had simply kept quiet, probably no one else would have ever known about it and they could have retained the trophy.
To their eternal credit, the team and the town, dejected though they were, rallied behind the school’s decision. The coach said, “We didn’t know he was ineligible at the time … but you’ve got to do what’s honest and right and what the rules say. I told my team that people forget the scores of the games; they don’t ever forget what you’re made of.”
In the minds of most, it didn’t matter that the championship title was forfeited. The coach and the team were still champions—in more ways than one. I’ll bet those students learned a lesson in moral courage they’ve never since forgotten.
I recently read a 2015 book that expresses moral courage on every page. Titled Whatever the Cost, its authors are twin brothers David and Jason Benham. They gained national fame a few years ago for their real estate successes and for having their reality TV show canceled by HGTV because of their religious beliefs. They were victims of the cancel culture of “progressivism” (I always put that in quotes because it’s really a regressive throwback to 14th Century intolerance and state worship).
The Benham Brothers grabbed my attention right from the start of Chapter One, which cites I Corinthians 16:13 which reads, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” Good advice doesn’t get much “gooder” than that.
The lessons the Benhams learned are abundant throughout. Self-discipline. Hard work. Honesty. Giving more in value than you take in pay. Persistence in the face of challenges, including personal injury. Hire for character and everything else will usually fall in place. Bravery in the face of the stupid cancel culture that’s flushing the world down the toilet.
No welfare state handouts and no power-hungry politician will ever shut the Benhams up or buy their obedience. They have too much smarts and integrity for that, and they hope readers will be so inspired too.
In my recent book, Was Jesus a Socialist?, I cite many Biblical passages on elements of strong personal character such as moral courage. Two of the very best are from the Apostle Paul: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7); and this one that he wrote in prison the night before his martyrdom, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). What a model for humanity!
Thugs in the streets and nihilists in the ivory tower can teach us little or nothing of value. We should be learning from good souls like Shetara Sims, that Conyers basketball team, the Benham Brothers and the Apostle Paul. They have what we all need—moral courage.