The form of every virtue at the testing point

A long title for this post, I know.  But it’s half of one of those quotable quotes which sticks with me.

Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point.  (C.S. Lewis)

It’s something Phil Pringle writes about in his book ‘You The Leader’.  I have to be honest: I really don’t love this book.  But I was asked to read it several years ago and there are parts of it which I get.  So I got our developing leaders at church to read it last year.  Some of them felt like I did; others loved it.  Amanda: after our conversation this week, this post is for you!

Courage is such a big deal as a leader.  I suspect that we all think that some people have it and some people (us!) just don’t.  But then I ask myself: did David think he was courageous before he fought off lions and bears?  And what about Jesus at the cross?  Or Paul going where others warned him not to go for fear of death?

And I have to conclude that courage is not a virtue in itself.  You don’t know you’ve got it until another aspect of your character is tested.  You can’t walk around claiming to be courageous – courage requires a context and the context is the times when doing what is right is difficult.  Courage is what shines through when another (different) virtue is tested.  At that point when I have the choice to do the virtuous thing, at that point where I am tested…that is when courage has its day in the sun.

‘Courage is something we must choose to do’, writes Pringle.  It’s being committed to virtue no matter what the cost.  It’s found at the testing point of any virtue you like to name…because doing what is virtuous is always opposed.

As Churchill said,

Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities…because it is the quality which guarantees all others.

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