By Nicole Scheidl

Nicole is a lawyer by profession and the mother of seven children. She has worked part-time and full-time while raising her family.  She has a passion for virtuous living and hopes this article will inspire you.

There are two kinds of courage or fortitude – the kind that faces danger or risk with a sporting spirit of firmness and the other kind which bears that which must be borne without complaint. It is a mental toughness which permeates the outlook and habits of the character of the individual.

Fortitude is a vital virtue that we need to develop in order to properly follow our life’s path. Fortitude gives us a larger vision for ourselves and the world we inhabit. The quality of character that includes this mental toughness allows us to take our eyes off petty issues and problems and embrace our larger potential. Understanding and developing an idea of our mission and embracing the path that our mission sets out before us, is an act of courage. We need to overcome the desire to remain in our comfort zone with the status quo and be willing to continuously improve ourselves.

If we examine fortitude we find two essential elements – endurance and enterprise. The aspect of endurance in the virtue of fortitude focuses on resisting harmful influences and withstanding difficulties. It takes courage to walk away from the office gossip mill. It takes courage to face a difficult boss or a messy situation at work. As well, we may find it is often more of a challenge to withstand the petty pinpricks of each day cheerfully, the computer crashing, a letter not being properly posted, dropping our lunch in our lap etc. then to face a bigger blow when we have the sympathy of the crowd to draw on.

Fortitude means taking risks, being enthusiastic about life and having a vision bigger than your own self. It means shunning the mediocre and an exaggerated desire for security to reach for the excellent. This aspect of fortitude focuses on the element of the positive undertaking or enterprise.

In our character we must overcome passivity and have the courage and initiative to dream a dream and begin a project. The excitement of a new Coaching 4 Character goal can carry us forward but we rely once again on the quality of courage in our character when we have to begin again because of a failure or a setback.

A strong motivation to proceed with any undertaking comes from not only an intellectual understanding of the problem or the goal and the solution sought but also a spiritual or inner strength that drives the passion to move forward. There must be both understanding and passion to feed the motivation to move forward. Anger at injustice, falsehoods or injury can be a source of passion if that anger is harnessed and used as an instrument to motivate towards a positive action not released as a destructive force. Indifference to the plight of others or to society as a whole is opposed to the virtue of fortitude. When we just don’t care or react to events around us because it doesn’t affect us directly we are leading a very self-centered and lazy existence. Seeking our own comfort as the highest good causes us to miss the opportunity to stretch and when we come up against a difficult situation we will crumble.

Not only must we seek opportunities that require us to make an effort but we must also learn how to stand firm. The world is full of negative influences and the virtue of courage creates for us an inner strength that allows us to face reality with a calmness of vision and a sense of purpose. Courage allows us to make of our lives a valuable contribution and a lasting legacy.

Terry Fox – A Life of Endurance and Enterprise

In 1977 when Terry Fox was only 19 he was diagnosed with cancer and had his leg amputated six inches above the knee. His experience of cancer treatment in the hospital deeply changed him and ingrained in him the idea that cancer research was the key to giving hope to the hopeless. In 1980 he planned to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research – running 200 marathons in a row – on one real and one prosthetic leg. Dubbed the Marathon of Hope, Terry ran 3339 miles in 143 days before the cancer returned and made it impossible to continue. On December 22, 1980 Terry said, “Even though I die of cancer my spirit didn’t die and that should influence a lot of people.” Terry died in June 1981 at the age of 22, however his courage inspired a nation and since that time the Terry Fox Foundation has raised over $360 million for cancer research.

Self-Assessment for Fortitude

1. Do I overcome fear, indifference or my need for security, in order to carry out really worthwhile activities?

Create a list of three worthwhile activities that would improve my relationship with my family, my co-workers and/or my community.

2. Do I try not to complain about the bad things I see around me? Do I try to do something positive to resist the negative?

List a negative in your life and two ways of resisting it with positive actions so that you “drown evil in an abundance of good”.

3. Do I make an effort to carry out everyday chores or tasks with diligence and love, putting a spirit of service into everything I do?

Make a list of three everyday chores or tasks that I habitually do and list one way I could improve their completion. List beside that chore an individual in my life for whom I will do that chore as an act of love.

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