Essay # 1
Moral courage consists in resolutely refusing to be. induced to do what we think wrong by the consideration of what others may think or say about our conduct Thus, while ordinary courage rises superior to the fear of death and pain, moral courage enables us to defy the power of public opinion and the foolish contempt of our associates, when we have once made up our mind as to what we ought to do. Courage, in the ordinary sense of the word, is shown by the religious man who runs the risk of torture and death rather than abjures his religion. Moral courage enables a man to be faithful to a religion which is despised by the multitude or by his own friends. Just as ordinary courage may consist either in the total absence of fear or in conquering timidity by resolute determination, so the man of moral courage may either have no. fear of the adverse opinions of others, or he may be very sensitive to the blame of his fellow-men, and yet, in spite of his sensitive nature, resolutely and with pain to himself adheres to his resolution.
Many men who are brave in the face of bodily danger are destitute of moral courage. Until of late years in England, the code of honour encouraged dueling. Any gentleman, who happened to be insulted by a drunken fool of his own station in life, was bound in honour to challenge him to single combat with swords or pistols. If he refused to do so, he became degraded in the eyes of his associates and was considered to have forfeited his claim to be regarded as a gentleman. Almost every gentleman had sufficient courage to conform to this custom and expose himself to the risk of death, when the code of honour required him to do so. Very few had the moral courage to refuse to fight. Yet many must have recognised the wickedness and folly of the practise, and be conscious of the cruel selfishness of sacrificing to a point of honour the comfort and happiness of those who depended on them for support. In this case, moral courage was particularly difficult, as it dictated conduct that to a superficial observer looked like cowardice.
But in the case of all sensitive persons, it may be said that it needs a great effort of will to obey the dictates of this virtue. In displaying courage in the face of bodily danger we are powerfully supported by the admiration of our fellow men, whereas the man of moral courage has to expose himself to the condemnation of public opinion, or to the hatred and contempt of those near and dear to him, without whose affection and esteem life seems scarcely worth living.
Essay # 2
It is usual to speak of courage as of two kinds-physical courage and moral courage; and the distinction is sound, for a man can have one without the other. By physical courage, we mean the courage to face danger to the body-pain, wounds, or death. By moral courage, we mean the courage to face ridicule, public disapproval and hatred for the sake of what we believe to be right. A soldier who can face unflinchingly bayonets and shells, may be unable to face the laughter of his companions; he is a moral coward. And there are men who dare to defy public opinion for conscience’ sake who are cravens in the face of physical pain; they are morally brave, but physically cowards.
It often takes a lot of moral courage to tell the truth, if a boy at school has done something wrong and is hauled up before the Headmaster, he is tempted to tell a lie to shield himself. To do so is to be a moral coward. Lord Bacon says that a man who tells a lie is a coward towards man but brave towards God. He means that a moral coward is more afraid of offending men, than of offending God by telling a lie.
It is sometimes our unpleasant duty to tell a friend plainly about his faults. We shrink from doing this; because we are afraid our friend will be angry with us and perhaps breaks off the friendship. So, while we disapprove of his conduct, we say nothing, and pretend we don’t mind. This also is moral cowardice. A true and morally brave friend will do his duty, whatever the consequences.
It is very unpleasant to be laughed at, especially by people whom we like and respect: but in some circumstances, we are sure to be ridiculed if we do or say what we think is right; and if we do or say it, in spite of ridicule, we are morally brave.
Indeed it takes a great deal of moral courage to stand alone, to go against public opinion, to rouse opposition, contempt and hatred by daring to do what is right. The political speaker that tells the public unpleasant truths, the statesman who brings in necessary and just but unpopular measures, the prophet who proclaims his message to an unfriendly world, are all men of moral courage.
Physical cowardice may be a nervous weakness, but moral cowardice is a fault.