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Character Building - Courage

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

ALL parents want their boys to be courageous, and would like to see them heroes, yet often train them away from these ideals, or allow others to do so. Such a mistake may easily begin in the cradle. No child would ever be afraid of the dark, which gradually approaches each evening, any more than of the sunbeams that dissipate it at dawn, did not somebody fill its little head with stories of hobgoblins hiding among the shadows.

If, in spite of precautions, such needless fears get into the child's mind, do your best to convince it that they are unreal; that the bedroom is as safe by night as by day; and gently cultivate stoutness of heart. No quality is more essential to happiness. A timid child is in constant misery. It imagines unreal terrors in each new experience, and magnifies difficulties. It is ever on the lookout for harm, and thinking of its own weakness instead of that of the foe. So it shrinks from effort for fear of getting hurt.

A courageous nature, on the other hand, dares joyously to put forth its whole powers, undaunted by rivalry. It does not retreat at the first rebuff, nor the second, but struggles on. It withstands oppression, and resists pressure upon its rights. Sometimes courage appears as physical bravery, as when a boy risks injury in order to do something that greatly needs doing, or when he defends his rights or honor, or a weaker companion, with his fists. Fighting among boys is surely not to be encouraged; yet when your son comes home with a black eye and sore knuckles, inquire carefully into the cause of the fight and his feeling about it before you condemn him. Some-times a fight may even be worth while as disclosing to a timid boy the undeveloped manliness which he really possesses. A brave nature is a gentle one, but gentleness may, under bad management, degenerate into weakness and cowardice, and cowardice is usually at the bottom of meanness.

The highest courage, nevertheless, is that which is able to put aside a temptation to fight merely to show bravery, or for some other poor reason; which will enable a boy or girl to smile at a taunt that everybody knows is undeserved; and which, on the other hand, will enable a boy or girl, a man or woman, to champion an approved idea or person, however unpopular with others, and stand fast to the end of the chapter. Physical courage is a good thing, but moral courage is above it. It is your privilege to teach your child to have both.

Boys and girls, won't you do some thinking about courage, and look up the word "courage" and the word "heroism" in the dictionary? Then write a short essay on the subject, arranging it under the following subdivisions: (1) True courage-that is, daring to do right and daring to defend the right; (2) false courage- daring to do or to defend the wrong; (3) true courage shown in bearing unjust censure or unpopularity; (4) courage in times of danger or misfortune; (5) the difference, if any, between courage and heroism.

Nearly every volume of the Library contains a poem, article, or story teaching the great quality of courage. Volume VII is almost wholly devoted to heroic deeds, while Volume VI is replete with the daring and hardihood of explorers and ad-venturers. Then turn to our biographical volume (IX), and you find it full of courageous men and women. But for very small folks we can recommend "Hansel and Gretel," "The Hardy Tin Soldier," and " Jack the Giant-Killer" in Volume I; "Cadmus," "Perseus," "Beowulf," and "Roland" in Volume II; the Iliad tales in Volume III; and "Defending the Fort," "The Boatman's Story," and "Wee Willie Winkie" in Volume IV. Many poems of valor and bravery are in Volume XI: among others see "The Charge of the Light Brigade," "Incident of the French Camp," "Marco Bozzaris," and "Sheridan's Ride." Every boy should memorize at least the last two.

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