Teaching Courage

When the floor falls out, diagnosis is unexpected, paycheck stops coming, friends stop calling, fear twists a soul, tests self-control – we need courage. When our nation is in peril – we need courage. That is why we teach it and must never stop. Now and always, we must deliver the goods.

But are we? The question dogs me as the year turns. Are America’s schools, media, social media, civic groups, scout troops, unions, church and community leaders, businesses, politics, and agency heads – teaching courage? Or have we given that up?

Do we ask kids to imagine future challenges – and teach what it takes to overcome them – or do we ignore that topic, too hard to teach, too fraught, just leave it to others? Do we – ourselves – take a realistic view, imagine what it takes in the modern world to prepare, to cultivate courage?

I wonder. Too often, the collective “we” – politicians and educators, media and social media, civic leaders, and the rest – seem tired of teaching courage. Easier by far is to “nod and wave,” give life to the lie of victimhood, “grievance culture,” and blaming someone else for what ails us.

But that is, as we all know, a copout, a failed strategy – individually and nationally. It does not produce leaders, successful careers, comfort with risk, failing, and starting again. It does not generate positive outcomes for society or for kids. No self-respect, self-discipline, struggle toward a goal, surge of satisfaction on accomplishment, or pride that puts a soul on stride.

Instead, it causes kids to duck and hide, blame and complain, doubt and escape, imagining they cannot win when the can. Instead of teaching tenacity, resilience, resourcefulness, and courage to try, fail, try, fail, and succeed, let alone the goodness of struggle – we avert our gaze, and punt.

Where does that take coming generations? Over a cliff. Rather than teaching how to build success on success with resolve, commitment, fortitude, appreciation for freedom to fail, learn, and prevail, we stumble along, teaching the reverse – how to game, blame, and defame.

Put differently, where we should be offering young Americans the “virtuous circle,” an example of courage that produces good outcomes, which prompts more courage and more good outcomes, we shrug and accept the “vicious cycle.” We indulge self-pity and resentment, and let kids blame “the system” – for what we did not teach them: how to succeed and why they should strive.

Some will say, “courage cannot be taught, it comes,” or “courage is secondary” or “courage is too hard,” or “does not matter.” All wrong, of course. Winston Churchill, who suffered endless failures until his courage turned the time and saved the Western World, wrote: “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because … it is the quality that guarantees all others.”

Can it be said any better? Everyone thinks they have courage until that day when it is needed. Then you see who has life lessons, learned examples, adults who cared about them – who taught them how to reach, rally, and make things happen.

Like everything else in life, we learn by lessons taught, things done. Courage is what happens when a child, teen, or adult digs deep, knows when going along is wrong, and instead takes responsibility – even if failure looms – because it is the right thing to do. They do it.

Think on that for a moment. Would we have any of our freedoms if every generation before us had not shown courage? No, we would not.

Courage comes in many flavors. The parent, teacher, or leader who lives it – teaches it. The journalist who writes a story at odds with her political persuasion – teaches it. The opponent of abortion who protests despite fear – teaches it. The advocate who stops to hear – teaches it.

What else is courage? The police officer summoned to a riot, dispute, robbery, assault, drug deal, murder, or these days, potential ambush. He or she goes with courage – teaches it. The veteran deploying into the unknown, trained, drained, under pressure – teaches it. The same veteran wounded, who steadies himself, learns anew, ups his game – teaches it.  

Truth is, we have examples. They should be held high, modeled and taught with pride. We know what we admire, and why. We fail the youth when we take the easy road, dodge the lesson.

Maybe this year can be an inflection point. There are signs. Maybe we can witness a rebirth of courage – what brought this nation to life and has sustained it. Rather than authorities who primp and posture, tweet and blame, diddle and divide, teaching the wrong lessons, maybe we rethink.

America’s younger generations need the real story, not another excuse. They need to know they have inherited a nation built on courage. And that what produced greatness in this country – can produce it in them.

Winston Churchill, like our Founders, ranked courage first. He taught and lived it. He also knew it was hard. He wrote: “It takes courage to stand up and speak, and it takes courage to sit down and listen.” We must recall and teach it. If we do not, no one will. If we do, we deliver the goods.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC. 

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Rob citizenship
2 months ago

To Robert B. Charles , Very important writing , your article on Courage, the quality that is at the foundation of freedom. Depending on the circumstances courage can be closely connected with other qualities, such as truth and having a sense of responsibility, part of a cycle to do what is right. Thinking about what you wrote I was reminded of trying out for the cross country track team in high school in 1965 at age 16. To qualify a 5 mile non – stop run was needed to be completed and as I recall there were five chances to do that. So, I remember the first four times I had to stop before the 5 mile mark , on the fifth try I made it. Determination helped , along with an understanding of the mental and physical connection in the effort. Having courage can be similar to that sort of experience, it depends on the situation , especially for young people, but I would think that the more examples of the value of courage that are presented in their education all the better. Courage is found throughout the teachings of Christ. The signers of the Declaration of Independence had courage , all through history men and women who faced challenges , defending principles, that they knew in their heart and soul needed to be defended .
uplifting , inspiring examples of courage can be found.
I appreciate the importance of what you wrote, great work , great accomplishment !

Lord help us!!!
2 months ago

We need to stand up. Obama/Biden r doing everything in their power to destroy America and the family. That’s what this transgender-surgeries on 4 yr olds w/o parent’s consent or knowledge when the child is trying to find out about the world these wicked people are destroying them. All these school shootings are because of these wicked democrat/communists committing horrendous acts against them!!! Democrat/communists are the real/true reason of all this chaos and wickedness. Pushjing this lgbtq bs down our throats. Remember God destroyed Sodom and will do the same to us if we allow this bs to continue!!! 2 Chronicles 7:14 IF my people. who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sins, and heal their land. We need to pray like everything depends on the Lord, and act like everything depends on us!!! IF something happening is not right take acttion!!! God has us here to step up!!! It’s not going to be easy, but if you value your freedom, stand up!!! Don’t wait for Trump to get back in or Desantis. They might not get in because the wicked ones will do everything in their power to steal the electtions because that is the only way they can win!!! Pray, read your Bible, ask the Lord, what would you have me do Lord, guide and direct me. Tell people about Jesus, that’s what changed us and that’s Who does the changing!!!

Tim Bankes
2 months ago

We need this in every home, school and church

2 months ago

Children today are taught to be submissive to the regime.

2 months ago

Great – thanks. We need to teach courage. Fear is everywhere and it is sad.

anna hubert
2 months ago

Courage and independence would solve many problems I do not think right now it’s a desirable trait Helplessness is much preferred and paid for

Philip Hammersley
2 months ago

If any nation attacks us, today’s woke students will lie back and let it happen!

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