Perhaps one of the most difficult of all virtues to act up to, and to bring into bearing upon the everyday of life, is moral courage. And it is surprising how many estimable and conscientious men and women lack this absolute essential to a really true life. It is such a trivial attribute when looked at beside the great qualities of truth and purity, love and unselfishness, and yet what a stumbling-block the lack of it can be. It is the foundation for a really good life—because without it, we cannot make a decided stand against the evils that assail us. It requires moral courage to say "No," and act "No," when asked to agree to anything that will do our inner life harm. It requires moral courage to bravely defy conventionality and "what people say" when endeavoring to live up to our ideals and be true. The world is always so ready to sneer at goodness, to place obstacles in the way of the seeker after Truth, and the scorn of the world is very hard to bear. How many a youth, going forth like a young David into the battle of life—self-reliant, brave, with the will and determination to fight against temptation, has yet fallen ignobly—not because he wished to commit this or that sin—but simply because he had not the moral courage to face the contempt and laughter of his friends. How many an untruth is told, how many a lie acted—what hypocrites men and women make of themselves and of each other—because they are afraid to be true. One sin committed, for the lack of moral courage to resist it, and following it, perhaps a life of deceit, a sinking deeper and deeper into the slough of evil, and the gradual deterioration of the whole character. For sins cannot come alone. One lie requires another to keep it going, and in the end a perfect tissue of deceit weaves itself around the original untruth.
Many a man—brave as a lion under physical danger—strong to do and to dare in the field of battle, a man who would give his life without hesitation for another—may yet be an errant coward where the inner life is concerned. He can face death at the cannon's mouth, but he cannot face ridicule. He can endure privation and hardship without a murmur, but he cannot bear unpopularity or contempt. He can lead a forlorn hope—he can risk his life for his friend—but he cannot say "No" to temptation—he cannot make a decided stand against evil.
Moral Courage is born of Strength of Character, the Strength that comes of the Inner Life. The vacillating, good-natured man who is "hail fellow well met" with everyone, and whose opinions are the opinions of the one he is at the time with, has no strength of character, and consequently no moral courage. He is a moral Vicar of Bray. It is the man serene in the Inner Strength, the Strength which enabled the Christ to lead His Perfect Life from the cradle to the Cross, who can face the world and the world's scorn, and stand like a rock, firm against the assaults of temptation. Strengthen your character, and the courage to make manifest that strength will follow. And truth and purity, peace and love, and all the other attributes to a good life, will of necessity blossom in your heart, because there will be no cowardice to suppress them, and no fear of popular opinion to keep them from "letting their light shine before men." "Be strong, my son," says St. Paul to Timothy, and to be strong should be the aim of every man and woman in this work-a-day world; strong to resist sin, strong to endure, strong to live the true Life, having the courage that lifts itself over earth's difficulties and faces serenely whatever befall it—until it comes forth from life's storms and tempests into the unclouded Day.
The virtuous live in peace and rest.
The wise man's heart is filled with joy,
The just man's name endures forever.