The Context of Courage

Courage itself is in crisis.

Courage is often misunderstood as simply standing for what you believe in. It is erroneously reduced to social media activism, joining mass movements, or the idea that by shaking your fist at the world, you are fighting for a cause. 

With constant virtue signaling and faux activism from all angles of the political spectrum, it can be easy to label such actions as courageous. In reality, both of these displays are merely methods of publicly expressing a stance to gain social recognition. Neither lead to genuine investment in any given cause, but rather require surface level association at best. 

Such misconceptions stem from the idea that publicly agreeing with a noble cause is courageous, even when there is no tangible follow-through. Although being active and standing for what you believe in on a public platform is admirable, praising these superficial actions often detracts from the true meaning of courage. Joining mass movements that stand for something is noble, but with these popularly supported viewpoints, is courage truly being exercised within a cacophony of agreement? Although there are some who might disagree with any given stance, it is easy to join widely supported movements, whether online or in the real world. 

Social media is a platform where there is no need to show your face. Through it, you can build a false personality to advocate for personal beliefs against strangers without facing substantial ramifications. Posting beliefs or arguing with a stranger on social media is easy; you will likely never meet that person face-to-face, thus removing any potential fear of social ramifications in addition to no opportunities for authentic dialogue. Despite publicly sharing your beliefs, are you truly being courageous knowing it is unlikely that you will experience any consequences?

Courage is truly found when facing a community–whether a class, work, among friends–and disagreeing in humility while being fully aware that you will have to face those same people again. Taking an unpopular stance and holding firm to it, knowing you might face real consequences is a challenge. Courage will not come easily; rather, it is taking the fear of backlash and powering through in spite of it, knowing that what you believe is more important than your social image.

Courage is not joining a crowd of screaming voices or fighting when you know you will face no consequences; it lies in the moment when you know that what you believe is unpopular, when you know that you might lose friends, and when you know that there might be consequences, yet you never compromise your values. You acknowledge that your convictions are more important than popularity, backlash, or one-dimensional friendships.

As Christians, we are called to be courageous, but we are told that standing for truth will result in a world against us:

As commanded by the Israelite leader Joshua in Deuteronomy 31:6:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Further, Christ tells is in John 15:18-19:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” 

As Christians, we must recognize that we do not belong to the earth, but to Christ. Standing for truth despite potential consequences is true courage. This truth applies to all areas of life, not exclusively to matters of faith. If we truly believe in something, then we should stand for it, not just in a like-minded crowd, but even when everyone around us disagrees. 

Speaking the truth even when you have everything to lose is true courage. 

“Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God.” -Martin Luther

The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not proport to reflect the opinions or views of the Gordon Review, editorial staff, or its members.

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