Honor Requires Guts
Over the past several weeks, I’ve been reflecting on courage and its link to honor. Courage—one of the four cardinal virtues—is inextricably tied to what it means to be an honorable man or woman.
In June of 1978, Alexander Solzhenitsyn was invited to deliver the commencement address at Harvard University. True to form, he gave a thoughtful—and somewhat scorching—critique of Western society. Solzhenitsyn noted: “A decline in courage may be the most striking feature that an outside observer notices in the West today. The Western world has lost its civic courage.” He even had the audacity to describe this decline of courage as a “loss of manhood.”
Over the past several weeks, I’ve been reflecting on courage and its link to honor. Courage—one of the four cardinal virtues—is inextricably tied to what it means to be an honorable man or woman. Honor requires guts. It is more than passive piety, an avoidance of bad behavior; this is a truncated view of honor. Courage propels individuals to stand for what’s right when others cower, to speak the truth when truth is unpopular, to fight for justice for the vulnerable and weak.
In December, one member of our community demonstrated such guts. On a Sunday evening, Josh Durnell, a freshman in the House of Reagan, witnessed a man roughing up a woman on the street. Josh walked up and asked if there was a problem. The young woman said there was and asked Josh to call the police. The guy responded, “I can make it your problem” and began punching Josh in the face. Thankfully, Josh was not seriously injured in the scuffle.
Take a minute to read the full story here. You’ll be glad you did.
Josh is not seeking public acclaim. In fact, the week after the incident, he told me, “I don’t think I should be viewed as a hero simply for doing what’s right.” You won’t hear him bragging about what he did. But I’d like to—Josh demonstrated real courage and honor, not only by intervening on behalf of the young woman, but also by handling himself with dignity in his response to the guy who assaulted him. Josh’s courage and grace are an example for all of us.
I am not advocating that we all go out and intentionally put ourselves in harm’s way. Let’s not be foolish. But I am saying that becoming a person of honor sometimes involves taking risks to stand for what’s right. Josh demonstrated that. We should celebrate such acts of courage.