"...do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

"For the good of the Air Force, for the good of the armed services and for the good of our country, I urge you to reject convention and careerism..."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Maxwell AFB, April 21, 2008

"You will need to challenge conventional wisdom and call things like you see them to subordinates and superiors alike."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, United States Air Force Academy, March 4, 2011

Friday, May 4, 2012

What Moral Courage Is, and Is Not

Moral courage is not physical courage.  It is not the act of pressing a button and ending the life of another.  It is not turning a wrench or loading a bomb.  Moral courage involves standing apart, telling the Wing Emperor he has no clothes, refusing an unlawful order, blowing the whistle on a crime, or taking another action based on principle.  A good litmus test to distinguish acting with moral courage, versus just doing your job, is to count the number of folks around you doing the same thing.  If others are doing the same as you, you may be doing something courageous, but you're likely just doing your job.  If you're the only one taking a stand for principle or for the law, and those around you aren't joining you (out of concern for their careers or financial well being), then it's possible you may be acting with moral courage.

This is an important distinction.  Some conveniently forget the meaning of words and phrases.  Language is often warped to avoid the truth behind words.   Some who are not morally courageous may try to pretend they are.  I see that often in the flying world, where simply doing the job is stretched into some sort of self delusional concept of courage.

Words matter.  When it comes to moral courage, we are not entitled to claim it, unless we actually have it.

No comments:

Post a Comment