Creative Leadership

The Power of Moral Courage

I define the term “moral courage” as a set of personal principles you live by that are unchanging. Some people would call them moral absolutes, but however you choose to name them, they help create a life of moral purpose. Without moral purpose you will never reach your full potential. In another generation, moral courage would be only discussed in religious terms, but today even secular corporations are embracing the concept. I believe it’s because after fifty years of moral drift in this country, we are just beginning to see the damage from the pursuit of unchecked sexual freedom, rampant cheating, and a culture of “me first.” Check out the self-help section of the average bookstore and note how many titles focus on me. What’s in it for me, what do I get out of it, and do unto others before they do unto me.

“The only true happiness comes from squandering ourselves for a purpose.” —William Cowper, poet and hymn writer

Jonathan Last, in the Weekly Standard magazine, noted the impact of the Internet itself on the culture of narcissism when he described attempts to create video games for social change:

“The central conceit of the Internet: that you can change the world without having to actually do anything. Want to change America? Download the [Former President] Obama app. Want to fight the Iranian mullahs? Turn your Twitter icon green. Want to bring human rights to oppressed peoples? Play a video game about it. Because what matters isn’t fighting autocrats or feeding the hungry or improving the conditions of Haitian farmers. What matters is knowing that you care about such things.”

His point is that the Internet itself is “all about you.”

Hopefully, that tide is changing. We’re witnessing a wave of business leaders who are truly making a difference. Blake Mycoskie founded Tom’s Shoes in 2006 with the purpose of giving away a pair of shoes to a child in need with every purchase. Father and son team Philip and Jordan Wagner founded Generosity Water and in their first two years of operation funded 108 water wells in 16 countries serving more than 50,000 people with clean, safe drinking water. Clearly these visionary leaders are resonating with millions of people across America. It’s time to realize that without moral courage and purpose we’ll never live a life of significance, and we’ll never make a real difference.

“Set priorities for your goals. A major part of successful living lies in the ability to put first things first. Indeed, the reason most major goals are not achieved is that we spend our time doing second things first.” —Robert J. McKain, motivational speaker and writer

The issue of moral courage is critical. It’s the foundation for creating priorities.

What about you? Do you consider moral courage important in your own life? Have you ever been faced with a challenge to your moral courage?  I’d love to know your thoughts…

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  1. Phil: Thanks for this. I think you’re absolutely right, and I do think the tide is turning. I saw the other day that more that 500 boomer-generation folks have joined the peace corps because they understand that retirement is about more than playing golf.

  2. Narcissism has infected the church as well. The apostles emphasized spiritual growth in community with the goal of building Christian character in the whole church. Paul commended or admonished each of the churches he planted based on their corporate faith. Today we think of character development only in individual terms. We have no equivalent for the intimate fellowship the early believers enjoyed. They met daily in the temple courts for worship and in one another’s homes for meals. We meet once a week on Sunday for an hour or two. They practiced the ‘one anothers’ on a practical level. We discuss them in Sunday School and Small Group.

  3. I long for a character revolution. I talk about it, I speak on it, I write about it, I read about it, I seek to exemplify it. Character is built, and those who don’t possess it now can be changed if they want it. I’m praying for that “want to.” I believe the young of this generation touched by the Spirit of God in revival will want it, and we must be ready to disciple them. Their new-found desire for right living will infect the culture–but they have to have “parents,” elders, who model character for them. I’m one. I know there are many others. Keep putting the word out: character matters!

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