Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

At the Testing Point

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point. ~C. S. Lewis

I saw this quotation on a poetry post. Not a blog post, but a real poetry post in my neighborhood. I saw it as I was walking with a dear friend who will have cancer surgery next week. A testing point for sure.

Now I can’t quit thinking about it. I had always thought of courage as its own attribute. But now I see that courage doesn’t exist by itself. Courage is what transcends fear and keeps our hearts open, and an open heart allows other virtues to manifest, even in the most challenging times.

The word courage comes from Old French “corage” which in turn comes from the Latin “cor” meaning heart. Although there can be some overlap, as when first responders put themselves in danger to rescue someone, it’s not exactly the same thing as daring or boldness. Courage can also be quiet.

Courage is what allowed a little girl sitting in a restaurant with her family not only to feel compassion for the homeless man on the bench outside, but to pick up her plate and take her dinner to him.

Courage is what allowed a popular guy in high school to be kind to a girl with disabilities and ask her to the prom.

Courage is what allowed an African American demonstrator to walk up in peace and hug a police officer, and what allowed the police officer to hug him back.

Courage is what allowed the Amish community to forgive the man who came into one of their schools and shot ten little girls.

The testing point is sometimes described as the razor’s edge. It’s not comfortable, and can be risky. This is where our practice is. The Bible says it’s not hard to love someone who loves you back. But to love your enemies? That takes courage.

Can you think of some examples of testing points, from the news or your own experience, where courage became the form of virtue?

6 thoughts on “At the Testing Point”

  1. Galen, you have certainly caused me to view courage in an whole new light. It's so true that we don't often see choosing to do what is right as taking courage, but often, especially in this fractured society, it does, as your examples point out here. Thank you for enlightening me today, my friend.

  2. I spent an amazing day, yesterday, with my lifelong friend who is living with ALS. We don't live close to each other so the hours together were a special gift. Her disease has completely robbed her of any ability to control her body and sadly her speech is becoming compromised. Your statement "courage is what transcends fear and keeps our hearts open" describes my friend perfectly–she is fully engaged with life, not one complaint, a pleasure to be with—she and her whole family are examples 24/7 of quiet courage.

  3. That is a remarkable way of looking at it. There are more than one type of courage, and that is the best explanation of that that I've yet heard.

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