Monday, June 15, 2009
True Courage: Advancing Toward the Horror Knowing
“Fortitude presumes to a certain extent that a man is afraid of evil; its essence does not consist in knowing no fear but rather in not allowing himself to be compelled by fear into evil or to fail to accomplish the good. Anyone who ventures into some danger, even for the sake of the good, without realizing how dangerous it is, or out of an impulsive optimism ('Nothing is going to happen to me'), or with a well-founded confidence in his own power and capacity for struggle does not yet have the virtue of fortitude. The possibility of being courageous in the true sense comes about only when all those apparent or genuine elements of security fail, that is, when the natural man fears for himself; indeed, not when he fears for himself out of baseless anxiety, but rather when, on the basis of clear perception of the true state of matters, he cannot do otherwise- as it were, with good reason- but fear for himself. Whoever in such a situation of unqualified seriousness, in the face of which any miles gloriosus (glorious soldier) falls mute and every heroic gesture becomes crippled, nonetheless advances toward the horror and does not allow himself to be prevented from doing the good, specifically for the sake of the good and thus finally for the sake of God, not out of ambition or out of fear of being taken for a coward: that person is truly courageous.” -Josef Pieper, A Brief Reader on the Virtues of the Human Heart, pgs. 26-27.