The Importance of Moral Courage and Moral Character
When we were children, sometimes we would take things without asking. Our parents or guardians would reprimand us in some way. We didn’t really know why we were being reprimanded. But we knew what we did was wrong.
As we grow, we also learn why taking certain actions were punished. Stealing something left someone else without something that they rightfully had in their possession (hopefully). In our selfishness we took it.
What if there were $200 dollars in cash on the ground but it was in an envelope addressed to a charity? What if it was in a birthday card? Then we decided that nobody saw you so we took it. That charity lost money… maybe they were able to feed 200 people with that money and we took it and bought sneakers or wasted it. Somebody’s birthday was ruined, their parents are wondering what happened because now they’re out of $200.
Moral courage and moral character are two elements of personality that work on two scales; fear and selfishness.
Moral courage is defined as :
Moral courage is the courage to take action for moral reasons despite the risk of adverse consequences.
Throughout history there are many examples of moral courage. Think about Muhammed Ali when facing possible prison time in addition to loss of his boxing license for not fighting in the Vietnam war. History recognizes this as a famous example of moral courage.
Amelia Earhart dared to be the first woman to fly around the world. She saw it as important for women everywhere and wanted to prove it to herself. She knew there would be a possibility of no return. Yet she went anyway.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X. Two civil rights icons. Both knew the possibility of death followed them everywhere they went. Despite that they never stopped pushing forward.
You can look at a list of examples here: Famous Examples of Moral Courage
Some may look at these examples and say…”they all died young”. That may be true. But nobody will ever forget these people either. Their acts of moral courage put them in the history books forever. What about moral cowardice? Those people often get forgotten and when they’re remembered, it’s not favorably. History doesn’t look at moral cowards kindly.
Think about Harriet Tubman guiding slaves to freedom with her revolver at her side, the threat of death around every corner. Yet there were people who refused to offer any assistance of any kind. Slaves running dozens, hundreds of miles. In their heart they know they deserve help and view themselves as a Christian…but they refused to lend their assistance.
Moral cowardice and nobody remembers those people.
Modern society is wrought with a lack of moral courage. Politicians switching from their own personal core beliefs to beliefs of a party. People not speaking up when they should in fear of backlash. What I’d say to those people is…the long term weight on your conscious will be the punishment you can never escape. Getting fired? Losing an election? Those suck but those don’t eat your soul. Robert Duvall’s character, Boss Spearman, in Open Range said:
There are things that eat at a man worse than death.
Moral cowardice is one of those things.
Moral character is defined as :
Moral character or character is an evaluation of an individual’s stable moral qualities.
Does your moral compass move depending on who or what is front of you? Sometimes we allow things to slide if someone we love does it. Maybe we don’t report someone because they’re a cousin, as opposed to a stranger. That’s what moral character is about.
It’s the indiscriminate application of moral judgment. Is it realistic to apply the same morality across the board with cold logic? No.
Should we think about our actions? Yes.
One of the attributes we’re supposed to gain as we grow into adulthood is impulse control. This is a part of moral character. When impulses are under control, better judgements can be made. Hopefully those judgements are made from a moral center.
Some of my worst moments were selling drugs. Moral character was at a low point. I knew I was making money while stealing from someone (in the metaphysical sense. Because what I was selling them wasn’t helping them, it was taking from them.
It’s not like selling apparel or selling a car. Selling drugs is selling death. It’s why I’m so big on helping others now.
We have to realize that when we’re not selling valuable products or giving out valuable information…or vibes, we’re stealing from ourselves by stealing from others.
That’s what I learned. Getting messages and emails about something I mentioned in a reading, or how someone is making more money now… is super gratifying. Rather than finding out someone got evicted because they spent their last on drugs.
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Share your own stories of moral courage or character below.