Principles of Moral Courage

By | December 26, 2021

[December 26, 2021] I’m often asked what is more difficult … to stand for what I believe in and do the right thing (moral courage) or to stand against a deadly enemy on the battlefield and fight (physical courage).  I have found moral courage to be far more difficult.  Leadership is often tested and, I believe we all must be morally courageous.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” – Ambrose Redmoon, Novelist

Whether moral or physical courage, there are pieces to the puzzle of what it means to act courageously. Indeed, many examples of courage are all around us.  Sergeant Alvin York of World War I fame or the current historian Dr. Victor Davis Hanson are two well-known courageous men.  Each in his way showed courage.

When I’m asked what courage is, I think I have the answer.  Here are some of the more critical principles of courage:

  • Confidence to make decisions and do the right thing.
  • Know yourself and others and act correctly on that.
  • Block out the naysayers and the negative voices.
  • Understand risk and use that knowledge to improve the right actions.
  • See what is possible in the future and the results of decisions.
  • Stand up and be counted for your actions and what you believe in.
  • Speak up so that everyone knows your position.
  • Never give up.
  • Stand against great odds and a high risk of failure.

In a modern society at peace, it isn’t easy to find ourselves in a position where physical courage is needed.  But those times do exist, and it is our duty as good persons to be prepared to act in unpredictable, dangerous circumstances.  We may be afraid in our minds but never afraid to act where our life or the lives of others could be lost.

Likewise, we may be afraid of a decision that could end our job or get us into trouble, but we cannot be afraid to make the morally correct decision.  This means that we must have a well-grounded moral belief in the goodness of people, and when the time comes, we must act for the betterment of all.

Leadership also means helping others be prepared for such events and letting them know that you have their backs.  It is simply easier to act when we know that others are there to help us.

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Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” at Amazon (link here).

 

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

19 thoughts on “Principles of Moral Courage

  1. Randy Goodman

    Gen. Satterfield thanks for another article on moral courage. There is a lack of moral courage in the US these days. We expect our politicians and other business and military leaders to have it but, again, they lack the moral courage often to do the right thing. “Right” meaning moral and efficient. They do not what is best for all in the long run, but they do what is expediate today and for the votes.

    Reply
  2. corralesdon

    The study of moral courage is something I would like to see more of at Gen. Satterfield’s senior leader blog.

    Reply
    1. Eduardo Sanchez

      Good point, corralesdon. I think so but it needs to come from an unexpected angle. You and I can read about “moral courage” all day long on the Internet, but we need to read something unique and exciting. What that could be should be up to Gen. Satterfield. Here’s a Happy New Year to all those who are part of this blog.

      Reply
      1. Fred Weber

        I agree, but will also say ‘keep up the great works,’ you are doing Gen. S.

        Reply
  3. Willie Strumburger

    Gen. Satterfield, thanks for another spot-on article and for maintaining this ‘free’ website. I know you don’t take money but you might consider a donation link for the future to help offset your expenses. Websites are not free. At least those like this one. Keep up the great work. As you know, I’m a long-time reader and fan.

    Reply
  4. Edward G.

    You have to know what is right before you can stand up for what is right. Today, we are being taught that certain evils are “good” and that we should protect it. That is what Antifa and BLM are about, evil, and we are taught to stand with evil. Not me.

    Reply
    1. Tracey Brockman

      Unfortunately Edward, this is so true. And today kids are being taught to hate each other because of the color of their skin. That is pure racism and evil. Yet, teachers teach it in our schools that this is what is right and moral. Sad. That is why good parents have to be involved, to ‘see’ what is being taught and do something to stop the teaching of so many evils of racism.

      Reply
  5. Scotty Bush

    Thanks Gen. Satterfield for a spot on article the day after Christmas Day. I for one am happy with what you have to say. Implied in much of your writing is the necessity of moral courage. Thanks for addressing it head on.

    Reply
    1. Jeff Blackwater

      Scotty, right, we actually encourage dishonor and cowardice by downplaying courage. And, not teaching examples of courage.

      Reply
  6. Kenny Foster

    Gen. Satterfield, moral courage is not seen for it used to be. Standing up for what is morally right is very difficult but we dumbdown the real meaning of courage today and just say that courage is anything that goes against traditional values. that’s not moral courage but often just ignorance masquerading in other clothes. Great work on your blog, keep up the great works.

    Reply
  7. Army Captain

    We no longer teach the attributes of courage in the US army. We are now “woke” and say that being gay is courageous, that a man wanting to be a woman is courageous, that a black being in the army is courageous. Wrong. This is warped thinking. Courage transcends all this.

    Reply
    1. Tom Bushmaster

      We no longer teach “courage” in the US military because we have “woke” generals and admirals who put sex issues above defense of our nation. That is perverted thinking.

      Reply
        1. American Girl

          Yep, and why under pres biden, the world is going to hell in a handbasket. The “man” (and I used the term man loosely, because he is a coward) is weak in so many respects and a man to not be believed for any reason. He is evil and more scary, he is pushing others to be evil too.

          Reply
          1. Dead Pool Guy

            Biden and the Demorats are at it again. Teaching us to hate and envy.

  8. Rev. Michael Cain

    Excellent article today, the day after Christmas, on one of the most important topics of all time. Please, Gen. Satterfield, write more on moral courage. IMO, I don’t think we teach courage any more.

    Reply

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