458 words essay on moral courage


A dictionary definition of “Moral Courage” is: “Cour­age to encounter odium, contempt, etc., rather than aban­don a right course.”

There is a good example of it in that old school story “Tom Brown’s School Days.”, about the famous Rugby Public School. When the boys were going to bed in their dormitory, a new boy, little Arthur, knelt down at his bed-side to say his prayers. The older boys all jeered at him, and one threw a boot at him; but the young lad knell then till he had finished the prayer his mother taught him. He did what he believed to be right, in spite of the jeers and contempt of his companions. He showed moral 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 unflinchingly bayonets 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’ sake, but who cannot face bodily torture or danger to life. They are morally brave, but physically cowards.

It often takes a lot of moral courage to tell the truth. Little George Washington showed it when he refused to lie to his father about cutting the cherry tree. When a school boy is hauled up before the Headmaster, he is tempted to tell a lie to shield himself. That is his only weapon of self-de­fence. To do so is to be guilty of moral cowardice.

Bacon says that a man who tells a lie is a coward towards men but brave towards God; “for a lie faces God, and shrinks from man”. He means that a moral coward is more afraid of offending men, 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 daring to do what is right – this takes a lot of moral courage. The political speaker who tells the public unpleas­ant truths, the statesman who brings in just and necessary but unpopular measures, the prophet who proclaims his message to an unfriendly world, are all men of moral cour­age.


Physical cowardice may be a nervous weakness; but moral cowardice is a fault. We must learn to do right, though the heavens fall.

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