Courage is the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face uncertainty, difficulty, intimidation, danger, or pain with or without fear. In fact, true courage may be doing something we fear despite our fear. Courage is also generally considered interchangeable with bravery, which is the ability to stand up for what is right in difficult situations. Boldness, fearlessness, mettle, and fortitude are also considered to be courageous qualities.
Courage is one of the greatest virtues a man and a leader can have. Aristotle listed it as the top virtue of all in his famous work, Nicomachean Ethics. It is virtually impossible to be an effective leader without courage. Leading a family, operating a business, going to school, and even volunteering your time require courage in various degrees.
Unfortunately, it is difficult being a man in today’s culture. The definition of manhood is evolving with no clear boundaries. Masculinity is devalued and even mocked in our feminized culture. (Just look how men are portrayed on sitcoms or in movies.) Not only that, but it is difficult being a husband and a father. Many women seem to want men to lead their families—as long as they lead them the way a woman would. Men get a lot of criticism (and rightfully so) for the problems they cause but seldom get much credit for what they are doing right. All that to say, it takes courage to stand by your convictions—to do what is right when those around you think you are wrong. It takes courage to risk being criticized. Generally, when men with certain convictions take a stand many factions of our culture are quick to attack them.
Any time you go against the prevailing wisdom of a culture you are subject to attack. It doesn’t mean you are wrong and society is right.
Courage is not the absence of fear but the conquest of it. Courage (especially in males) is the willingness to fail. Courage is the defender and protector of all other virtues. It is essential in order to guard the best qualities of the soul and to clear their way for action. To be afraid to the point of paralysis is to have no soul. But courage emancipates us and allows us to move with freedom and vigor. Author and educator, Henry Van Dyke described the effect of courage: “Not to tremble at the shadows which surround us, not to shrink from the foes who threaten us, not to hesitate and falter and stand despairing still among the perplexities and trials of life, but to move steadily onward without fear.” When parents exhibit courage, they produce children with courage. Billy Graham once noted, “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”
The need to take risks in order to feel alive, to do the impossible, to face one’s fears and not back down is present in the warrior heart of every boy and man. But too often our culture teaches boys that this drive is bad or unnatural. We punish boys for being too aggressive, too boisterous, and too loud. We medicate them in school when they exhibit normal behaviors that are biologically driven.
Too many young (and old) men today are afraid to be the kind of men they want to be or were created to be because they are fearful of being criticized by a woman or a feminized man. Since being mocked (especially by a woman) is one of a male’s greatest fears, he avoids this at all costs. He alters his behavior to minimize the potential for conflict and criticism. But a man who allows a woman to dictate to him what it means to be a man is all the less a man.
So how do we teach our boys to have courage? First, teach your son to embrace failure. Fear of failure keeps most men from even attempting something. Most males feel humiliated by failure or inadequacy. But males learn best by trial and error; by attempting something, failing, and then persevering until they succeed. Boys who avoid anything they are not sure to succeed at live very limiting lives. No one wins every time. But the only way you always lose is to not try at all.
Your role in life Dad is to shepherd your son into manhood. Shepherds do not produce sheep—sheep produce sheep. Shepherds produce other shepherds. Being a shepherd requires you to have courage in order to protect your flock. Too many people in the church and in our country today are “sheeple”—those who voluntarily acquiesce to suggestions without critical analysis or research. They then lose their individuality and willingly give up their rights. They go along with just about anything as long as it doesn’t upset their little world or cause them to have to think too hard or make any difficult choices.
Be a shepherd for your son. Have courage in all you do. Don’t condemn him to a life as a cowardly sheeple.
Excerpted from Rick’s new book, A Man in the Making: Strategies to Help Your Son Succeed in Life. For more information go to: www.betterdads.net.