As many lament what they see as a lack of moral courage in our politics and society, it perhaps is helpful to take pause and appreciate how rare and special this particular type of courage actually is.
Over a hundred years ago, Claude Monet wrote “It is a tragedy that we live in a world where physical courage is so common, and moral courage is so rare.”
Fifty years later General George Patton said, “Moral courage is the most valuable and usually the most absent characteristic in men.”
And perhaps Robert Kennedy said it best when writing: “Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change the world which yields most painfully to change.”
It is easy to lament its absence and call people cowards who in our eyes fail to stand up for what is right.
It is far more difficult to find ways to exercise moral courage in our own lives or at the very least call attention to others who bravely act on moral grounds despite their own self interests.
Imagine if there was a newsletter called, This Week in Moral Courage. What would you read about? What could you contribute?
The answers don’t come easily to me either. But it is something worth imagining, even aspiring towards. These are the stories we must write and find, to share with our fellow citizens and teach our children if we wish to see more of it in others.