I spend a great deal of time helping to mentor my youngest brother. The ongoing battle is teaching an explaining ethics and morality to a twelve year old. We have tried to implement many basic moral codes; we have written out lists, and numerically quantified right action. However, the big shift occurred this week, when a disparately connected idea led me to teach him about the cardinal virtues. And thus, in a very ‘Seven Kingdoms’ manner, we have taken those four virtues as our House Words.
The Cardinal Virtues are four virtues recognized in the writings of classical antiquity. Courage is one of the four, and arguably the most important of all four.
Courage: is the capacity to confront pain, discomfort, danger, and death (to name a few). Physical courage is the ability to confront physical pain and a certain death. Moral Courage is the capacity to do the right thing, to act justly, when doing so is discouraged or otherwise unpopular.
Courage has been called many things – fortitude, strength, bravery, perseverance. Hemingway said courage is ‘grace under pressure’. Churchill said ‘courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities… because it is the quality which guarantees all others’. Three common subcategories of courage are ‘Bravery’, ‘Honesty’, and ‘Perseverance’.
Bravery has been described as doing what is right when it would be much easier to do what is convenient. Psychological bravery has been described as the ability to overcome one’s own natural inclinations, when those natural inclinations place desire firmly at odds with virtuous action.
I teach my brother these four words, and what they mean, every day. People are quick to forget things they recently deemed quite important. When, for instance, a morally ‘good’ person is shown they have done some wrong, most of the time they are quick to accept that rebuke and take responsibility. It’s safe to say, they did not wish to act that way. I find that having a complex moral code condensed into four words quit effective; those words, when recited, call up the antecedent moral information they are associated with, making choice a less daunting task.
It’s our little moral objective correlative.