What is courage? It is usual to speak of courage as of two kinds- physical courage and moral courage. The distinction is sound, for a man can have one without the other.
By physical courage we mean the courage to face physical danger; that is danger to the body such as pain, wounds or death. By moral courage we mean courage to face ridicule, hatred and public disapproval for the sake of what we believe to be right. A soldier who can face bullets and shells may be unable to face the jeers of his comrades. He is physically brave, but a moral coward.
On the other hand, there are men who dare to defy public opinion for conscience’s sake, but who cannot face bodily torture or danger to life. They are morally brave but physical cowards.
It often takes a lot of moral courage to tell the truth. Mahatma gandhi was an epitome of moral courage. Right from his childhood he showed signs of moral courage. A study of his life story stands testimony to that.
Mohan das karam chand gandhi is bapu’s full name and we call him Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi loved truth and he showed signs of this virtue in his behaviour in his early childhood. Mohan was just like an ordinary boy. He did not like to go to school and he often called names to his teachers behind their back to express his dislike for them. Once he reported late for school games in the evening, the reason being that he was held up at home due to his mother’s fast. He was fined and beaten up for being late. He had the courage to speak his mind to the Headmater of the school unmindful of the punishment.
Later, once an inspector of Education visited his school. His teacher was keen that the class produce good result. He coaxed all the children to copy from each other to get right all the answers. He prompted Mohan also to do the same. But he did not oblige the teachers by cheating. He told his teacher later that he thought it was wrong to cheat. So, he did not. Do you know what the reaction of the teacher was? He flew into a rage instead of praising him for his truthfulness, he punished Mohan. But Mohan did not mind it.
Everyone was surprised. No one had ever seen a boy being punished for truth! It was really an outstanding act of moral courage on the part of mohan.
Once his elder brother instigated him to steal some money from their father’s pocket. Mohan obliged and gave it to him. When his father discovered about the shortfall of money in his pocket, he became very angry. Mohan felt very bad in his hearts of hearts. He wept bitterly. However, he wrote a letter about the whole episode to his father. He felt sorry for doing this wrong act and asked for his father’s forgiveness.
When his father read the letter, his eyes were filled with tears at the moral courage of his little son, who later was to become a great man one day- the Father of our Nation. He called Mohan and embraced him and appreaciated his fearless action.
Simmilarly, Geaorge Washington who rose to be the first President of the United States showed exemplary moral courage while he was a child.
Once his father gave George a small axe to play with. The axe was sharp and it looked bright and beautiful with a wooden handle. He wanted to cut something with it.
George went to his father’s garden. He went about trying the axe upon nearly everything that came in his way. At last he came to a young apple tree and began to try the axe on it. He soon cut off all its brancehes and leaves. It gave him extreme happiness and exicitement.
In the evening. George’s father went to the garden to look at his flower. He flew into rage when he saw a young apple tree almost lying on the ground, “George”,
“ Who has done this?”
Instead of putting blame on anybody
Else, George with tears in his eyes said, “ Father! I cannot tell a lie. I did it with the little axe you gave me.” He was not afraid at all. He had the moral courage to say the truth.
His father took George in his arms and kissed him and said,
“ I admire you for your moral courage to tell the truth. I would rather lose all the trees in my garden than hear my son tell a lie.”
Often when a school boy or girl is put up before the Headmaster, he or she is tempted to tell a lie to shield himself or herself. That is his only weapon of self defense. To do so is to be guilty of moral cowardice. Often a moral coward is more afraid of offending humans than he is of offending God by lying.
To stand alone, to go against public opinion, to risk losing one’s friends, to rouse opposition, contempt and hatred by doing what is right takes a lot of moral courage. A leader who tells the public unpleasant truth or brings just and necessary but unpopular measures faces unfriendly world with moral courage only.
We may be physically weak but we must learn to do right, come whatever may. One should never abandon a right course whatever the outcome may be.
Always bear in mind that truthful behaviour needs moral courage. Try to be truthful.