Moral Courage

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

I have already offered pertinent suggestions on this subject at the beginning of the present chapter, and have treated it practically and at length in "Power For Success," so that it seems sufficient to add here merely a word or two.

Morbid Apprehension of Consequences Resulting From Immoral Action is not a very prevalent difficulty, yet it occurs in some cases, and deserves assistance. Self-preservation is a law of life. Reason forbids all activity or conduct promising hurt to self. The law, then, demands merely the exercise of healthy reason in such cases, and when one passes this requirement and entertains, not reason, but fear, he is violating the very law he seeks to obey, self-preservation, and he surely injures himself. The remedy consists in eliminating the fear-element and in getting back to sober reason. You are morbidly fearful that your wrong conduct may bring to you excessively unhappy consequences. You should repeatedly suggest to your self the ideas of confidence, courage, ability to take what may properly come to you, and, above all, the truth that the government of this Universe is one of absolute equity, and that only.

But this desire to conquer self-fear for the sake of self-interest is perfectly legitimate. The man who is indifferent to moral courage as an asset in his own favor, disregards one of the greatest weapons of life. You are, therefore, urged to observe the following suggestions:

(1). Auto-Suggestion. You are urged to treat the conquest of moral fears as already accomplished, the method being the emphatic and continuous assumption: "I am now power to do whatever I believe to be right," making sure always to demonstrate the assumption by all your thinking and in all your conduct.

(2). The Vital Present. You are urged to do now the thing that you feel ought now to be done. Some people are always equal to a thing to-morrow. They say: "I certainly shall do this thing to-morrow," which means, unless the resolution changes for the better never. The courage-law is this: "The thing is done, right here and now!"

(3). The Safe Distance. You are urged to "stand away" from bad reefs when your real "course" does not call for " close sailing." The locomotive fireman controls his fire, but if he is weak with a fever it is folly to tempt the furnace with his own body. The man who feels himself to be morally uncertain may withstand temptation, but he also may yield. This "may yield" calls for the "safe distance."

(4). The Soldier's Mood. You are urged to summon to its strongest the soldier's mood of fighting power when you are compelled to go where moral danger lurks, and to return to the safe distance as soon as possible.

(5). The Resolute Purpose. You are urged, nevertheless, to avoid the suggested trouble, fearsome anxiety about yourself and a constant balancing of the two preceding suggestions. It is not healthy to treat one's soul as a sickly weakling who must always worry about some possible failure. With the safe-distance rule and the soldier's mood should go the resolute purpose to come out a free man, minus all moral fears, and plus all moral courage. And, after all, the best creator of courage is courage itself.

And now, as a climax to this chapter, as, indeed, a running law for the entire subject of personal courage, I invite acceptance of the following paragraph always excluding things believed to be immoral, but including whatever is believed to be right:

A man's fears, of whatever nature, are the products of what himself or his ancestors have not been able to undertake. Fear comes not of doing; it issues infallibly from the not-doing. Fear is the deposit of the soul's inaction. That which one really undertakes begets courage. While seemingly the antecedent of action, courage is actually the result of doing some-thing. Hence, the habit of courage, like any other habit, comes of acting of doing the thing one fears to do. Decline always what you fear, and the death of courage is as certain as law. Do always what you fear, except the immoral, and the death of fear is as certain as law. You can acquire the habit of fear-killing by beginning at the first opportunity to do the one thing required though Death and Et Cetera be the promised consequences. He who always puts the best of himself into any legitimate demand forgets self-fear. Fear is never present when forgotten.

The word habit is derived from the Latin habitum, "condition, dress." The habit of courage may be thought of as the dress or uniform of courage. Many a situation is successfully handled or carried through simply because of a consciousness of being well-dressed or of wearing a striking uniform. Put on the habit --the dress the uniform of conscious courage, and fears of self will infallibly vanish.

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