Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. “The Lord is my strength and my song.” “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church 1808
I posted this on my facebook wall and the only serious comments about it had to do with work. One person who commented was a teacher who has been dismayed by the circumstances surrounding education in America. From bad teachers, to careless parents, to government intrusion and self-interested unions, so much stands in the way of a good teacher’s passion for the education of children.
Another was from a former executive of a non-profit company. Much of what he did was so that the mentally and physically handicapped could attain and maintain a job. Regardless of their productivity, they could get compensated for their work, socialize with peers, but perhaps most importantly, the very essence of work fostered a more heightened sense of dignity in each of them – a dignity that would be hacked away if businesses weren’t willing to hire people with mental or physical handicaps, or weren’t able to sustain these positions with other operations and tax benefits. And while many situations arose that gave this executive headaches, he pushed tirelessly through them so that these disabled people, whom are increasingly pushed toward the margins of society, begin to feel the possession of the infinite amount of human dignity they naturally have.
These narratives help us conclude one hard and fast rule of life: No good has ever been possessed without overcoming great difficulties. Trials, tribulations, even sometimes the occasional doubt, are all hurdles which must be surpassed for the attainment of whatever good we have set out for. In order to overcome the obstacles many things must take place, but most perhaps the most important of all is the good must be defined in order to set out for it. A mountain isn’t difficult to climb if one can turn around and walk away from it. But if that mountain stands between you and a certain good, the mountain becomes a supremely difficult leg of the journey toward possession of the good.
It is unfortunate that today’s age can be defined by the opaqueness of what exactly is good. More than anything, people have come to define what good is by what is a cultural norm, as if societal trends are the measure of good and bad. It is quite obvious that this is not the case. For if it was, irruption against Nazism would be only an alien opinion of morality and not true morality. Civil rights of African-Americans could be for the North, while in the South segregation would prevail because of its “cultural normativity”. Of course we hold this to be nonsense while analyzing historical achievements against these great evils, but at the times of these conflicts the sides weren’t so clear as they are today. Thus when it comes to good, objective evil must be overcome to attain it, even though the evil can be exalted by the many people around us as though it indeed is good.
When talking of the young people today, it is evident that they are confused as to what precisely is good. They begin much of their creed with “I just think that x is stupid, or y is corrupt, or z is so behind the times,” when they haven’t at all researched x, y, z, their causes, history or even their actions. In such cases young people posit their own presuppositions onto reality as if their own opinions and preconceived notions were what is objectively true and good. Of course this type self-justification is the same of self-justification many nazi party members and segregationists used in order to carry out their cowardice, and quite frankly, in some rare cases the effects can be just as bad. These young Kantians are lacking the fortitude to find the historical truth about things, and it is because of this that they become habituated to cowardice.
More conspicuously, American business leaders remain in cowardice today. Directed by money, egotism or their own self-justifying suppositions, too often do employers look to possess the perfect employee, as if a perfect employee is born and not developed. Only when America’s business leaders learn to see employment not as in instrument for the success of their company, but as an instrument for the co-dependent success of a global civilization, can the full countenance of employment be cast into full light. The individual employee works not for his self-interested good, but he or she works for the co-dependent good of service. And only when this good is propped up, communicated to all and clearly defined can the virtue of fortitude increasingly pervade the habits of society.
When the teacher sees the superior good of education, the increasing difficulties surrounding the field are far from insurmountable. When the executive sees the good of employment for the disabled, the stress surrounding his position in the business melts away for the attainment of that good. And when business leaders grow in knowledge of how their business impacts everyone, from their employees to a person halfway around the globe, and how goodness must enter into it all, will we truly understand what fortitude means for the World’s business leaders.
“When it is all over you will not regret having suffered; rather you will regret having suffered so little, and suffered that little so badly.” St. Sebastian Valfre