Moral courage: active and powerful

Illustration by Jp Bernal

“Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.”

Ronald Reagan understood the value and power of moral courage. Last week, we heard from another person familiar with the phrase: ABC correspondent, What Would You Do? host and Amarillo College Distinguished Lecturer John Quiñones.

Some may have a hard time defining what moral courage is.

Illustration by Jp Bernal
Illustration by Jp Bernal

Put simply, it is doing what is right instead of what is easy. It is the bravery to do what is morally responsible despite personal risk and adverse consequences.

Or, as Quiñones told us, it’s doing something not for the recognition, money or perks, but because it’s what your heart tells you is right. It’s stepping in when that little voice inside says, “DO something,” regardless if you’re the first one or you join in later.

Having moral courage is crucial to our lives. The world would not be the same if certain individuals had not exhibited moral courage throughout history. Imagine what the world would be like if William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi had chosen the easy way out.

While your day-to-day actions may not seem to have as much of an impact as any of those human rights icons, the choices we make define who we are and create our culture.

Whether it is academic honesty or reporting domestic violence, our decisions have a profound impact.

As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much unless you do what’s right.”

While we can fall back on a variety of moral standards and codes of ethics that exist in our daily lives, almost all people also have a basic sense of right and wrong. Despite that, many people fail to do the right thing for one reason or another.

Sometimes it’s fear, other times ignorance or complacency that lead us to act out of cowardice far too often. This tendency needs to change if we have any hope of our culture and world improving.

The moments we dare to make the right choices despite the consequences are when real and positive change happens.

Being morally courageous is never easy; that’s why it is called moral courage and not moral mediocrity. But the world would be a much better place if we all showed a little more of that bravery in the tough situations.

Even the little things matter. Things such as choosing not to cheat on tests, even when you can get away with it. Or reporting it when you see someone else doing it.

Many such scenarios exist in which courage is required to do the right thing. If you need a boost in the right direction, What Would You Do? provides excellent examples of people all over the country exhibiting moral courage.

Just like the people on those episodes, every citizen should consider it his or her duty to be morally courageous.

With just a little effort and determination to do right, we can make the world a better place for everyone.

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