LOVE’S LORDS IN WAITING: COURAGE
We all have Courage.—The word courage come to us from the time when Norman French was the language of the court and when chivalry was the law of noble living. The Normans perceived that Courage was of the heart, as the word shows; Courage was the whole of character to a man; he who had not Courage, had no quality of manliness. We talk about it less in these days, but Courage is still a great Lord in the House of Heart, having his dwelling by right in every Mansoul, and, indeed, in even timid breasts.
The Courage of Attack.—The sheep has the Courage of Attack for the sake of her lamb; the bird will sit on her eggs in the face of that monster, man. A blue-tit once thought proper to nest in a letter-box; of course people went to see the sight, and the courage with which the little creature hissed at the gigantic intruders was a very curious and admirable. The toddling child has courage to protect his pets. Many a tender mother has had the courage of an awful death to save her baby. If we would but believe it, we have all courage to face any calamity, any enemy, any death. But Courage, like the other
Lords of our Life, is attended by his Dæmons, Fear, Cowardice, Pusillanimity, Nervousness.
The Courage of Endurance.—Fear, with his kin, Panic and Anxiety, is on the watch for those moments when Courage sleeps, lulled by security. When we consider the splendid valour that men of all sorts show in battle, we begin to see how universal Courage is; in our country it is those who choose that enlist in the army; but the Courage shown by men drawn by conscription is not less than that of our own army. Also, how possible it is for every man to be gripped by shameful Fear, and to act upon the panic born of fear, is shown by the fact that a whole company, heretofore held as brave as the rest, has been known more than once to turn tail and fly before the enemy.
The Courage of Serenity.—Few of us are likely to be tried in a field of battle; but the battle-field has an advantage over the thousand battles we each have to fight in our lives, because the sympathy of numbers carries men forward. The Courage required to lose a leg at home through a fall or an injury on the cricket field is, perhaps, greater than that displayed by the soldier on the field; and the form of Courage which meets pain and misfortune with calm endurance is needed by us all. No one escapes the call for Fortitude, if it be only in the dentist’s chair. It is well to be sure of ourselves, to know for certain that we have Courage for everything that may come, not because we are more plucky than others, but because all persons are born with this Lord and captain of the Heart. Assured of our Courage, we must not let this courage sleep and allow ourselves to be betrayed into panic by a carriage accident or a wasp or a rat. It is
unseemly, unbecoming, for any of us, even the youngest, to lose our presence of mind when we are hurt or in danger. We not only lose the chance of being of use to others, but we make ourselves a burden and a spectacle. Anxious fuss in the small emergencies of life, such as travelling, household mischances, pressure of work, is a form of panic fear, the fear that all may not go well, or that something may be forgotten and left undone. Let us possess ourselves and say: ‘What does it matter? All undue concern about things and arrangements is unworthy of us.’ It is only persons that matter; and the best thing we can do is to see that one person keeps a serene mind in unusual or fretting circumstances; then we shall be sure that one person is ready to be of use.
The Courage of our Affairs.—The form of fear that is inclined to fret and worry and become agitated under any slight stress of circumstances, darkens into anxiety in the face of some success we are striving after, some calamity that we fear. Anxiety obtains more sympathy than other forms of fear, because the person who is anxious suffers much, and the cause for anxiety is often sadly real. But we do ourselves injustice by being anxious. We have been sent into life fortified, some more so, some less, with a Courage which should enable us to take the present without any fearful looking forward. And, indeed, we do so, the feeblest of us, when we are kept fully employed by immediate things. That is how mothers and wives can go through months of the nursing of their nearest and dearest with cheerful countenance. They tell you they dare not look forward, and that they live from hour to hour, and so they are able to bring happiness and even gaiety into the sick-room, though a sorrowful
end is before them. If this noble Courage is possible in the face of coming grief, it is also possible, if we would believe it, in the face of lesser matters—coming examinations, coming losses, coming distresses of every kind, even that worst distress, when those dear to us fail us and fall away from godly living. “Let not your heart be anxious” (R.V.) is the command of Christ. The command presupposes the power of obedience, and it is for this that heavy things are spoken of the ‘fearful and the unbelieving.’
The Courage of our Opinions.—Besides the Courage of Attack, the Courage of Endurance, the Courage of Serenity, and the Courage of our Affairs, there are lesser forms of Courage which as truly belong to the courageous heart. There is the Courage of our opinions. By opinions I do not mean the taken up catchwords of the moment, those things which ‘everybody says,’ and with which it is rather agreeable than otherwise to startle our less advanced friends; but those few opinions founded upon knowledge and principle which we really possess.
It is worth while to examine ourselves as to what our opinions are as to the questions discussed in conversation or otherwise. We may find that we have no distinct opinion. If so, let us not take up with the first that offers, but think, inquire, read, consider both sides, and then be ready with a gentle, clear, well-grounded expression of opinion, when someone remarks, for example: ‘I think missionaries are a mistake!’ ‘The religions people have are those best suited to their natures’; or, ‘It is no use thinking about the multitude, it is the few who have intellect or art who are worth caring for;’ and so on. We often allow other people’s opinions to pass without
protest, because we believe that they have been carefully thought out; but it is surprising how a word of simple conviction will arrest people who express the most outrageous opinions. At any rate this form of Courage is due from us.
The Courage of Frankness.—The Courage of Frankness is very charming. A certain degree of reticence is due to ourselves and to others: the person who pours out all his affairs indiscriminately is a bore; but, on the other hand, he who shows undue caution, discretion, distrust, is of a fearful and unbelieving spirit, and fails in the characters of the noble heart. Our motive is our best guide to the right mean in this matter. If we reserve our matters because we are unwilling to bore our friends with trivial things, it is well; but if we reserve them because we distrust the sympathy or the fairness, the kindness or the comprehension of the people we live amongst, we make a failure in Courage.
The Courage of Reproof.—Many other forms of Courage will occur to each of us; we can only mention one or two more. The Courage of Reproof is to be exercised with delicacy and gentleness, but there can be no faithful friendship between equals in age without this Courage; the just and gentle reproofs given by the young to the young are perhaps more convincing and converting than the more natural and usual reproofs of elders.
The Courage of Confession.—To name one more form of Courage, the Courage of open, frank Confession of that which we have done amiss or left undone, in the small matters of daily life, to the person concerned, is very strengthening; but I am not sure that the habit of confessing feelings and
thoughts always arises from Courage. Acts and omissions are safer ground.
The Courage of our Capacity.—Then there is what we may call the Courage of our Capacity—the courage which assures us that we can do the particular work which comes in our way, and will not lend an ear to the craven fear which reminds us of failures in the past and unfitness in the present. It is intellectual Courage, too, which enables us to grapple with tasks of the mind with a sense of adequacy. Intellectual panic is responsible for many failures; for our failure to understand an argument, to follow an experiment, and very largely for our insular failure to speak and comprehend the vocables of foreign tongues. Intellectual panic is responsible, too, for the catchwords we pass as our opinions. We fear it is not in us to form an opinion worth the holding and worth the giving forth.
The Courage of Opportunity.—The Courage of Opportunity, of which Shakespeare says,—
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune,”
is also connected with the Courage of Capacity, and is to be distinguished from the gambling spirit of Foolhardiness, which is ready to seek and try all hazards. One note of difference is perhaps that Courage is ready for that which comes, while Foolhardiness goes a-seeking. Courage waits for guidance,—
Holding as Creed,
That Circumstance, a sacred oracle,
Speaks with the voice of God to faithful souls.