The Value of Courage

By Martin Poehler

The situation has become desperate. A gang of outlaws has just robbed the stage-coach of the pay-roll for the entire town. The townspeople are up in arms because they fear they won't get paid their wages. Things are even worse, because the outlaws have taken the sheriff's daughter from the stage-coach and are holding her ransom. But wait! Hopalong Cassidy with a group of men in white hats mount horses and begin to pursue the desperados! After a spirited chase they catch up with them, and a fierce battle then ensues. Hopalong Cassidy and his men crush the outlaws, the money is recovered, and the sheriff's daughter is saved!

We Admire Courage

We all have seen and enjoyed movies like the one I've just described. We admire heroes like Hopalong Cassidy who show mighty courage, and who despite great peril to themselves bring safety to others. Real-life heroes also gain our honour and respect. We admire a policeman who risks his life and catches a robber, and we hold the policeman up for praise. When we hear of people showing great courage, it inspires us and lifts us up. We think, "Yes! There is something good and right in how that person acted." This sense has been felt in every society and in every age. As C.S. Lewis said, "There is no society that feels that cowardice is right, and that bravery is wrong."

There seems to be a common thread running through all courageous acts in every age. In every case a person who shows courage seems willing to lose everything - his reputation, his health, and even his life - to benefit others. Whatever inspires courage in a person seems to run counter to any self-preservation instinct he may have. The motive to help others rules all other motives when a person acts in a courageous way - often resulting in his own death.

Others' Bravery Benefits Us

Numerous benefits come to us when others behave courageously. One example is how our countrymen have acted bravely during battle to fend off foreign armies. Today we can enjoy stability within our nations because of their bravery. The courage of policemen protects us from lawlessness within our societies. When policeman risk or even give up their lives to arrest dangerous criminals, this maintains stability - freedom from the actions of evil and lawless men - in all our lives. Firemen also give us great benefits when they enter a burning building to save our lives or our property. They know that their own lives are at stake. But their courageous actions preserve our lives and property. Clearly the brave actions of a few people have brought great stability to our lives today.

So unquestionably we benefit from others' brave actions on our behalf. How about those people themselves? Do soldiers who died in battle to preserve our nation, or policemen who were killed apprehending lawless men, receive any benefit from their courage? Do they receive any benefit at all from their bravery which cost them their lives? It makes you wonder where bravery comes from and makes you feel the scales must surely be balanced in some way after death.

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