The Inward Life: Courage, Virtue & Self-Esteem

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Now, on to today’s reading, which was edited and adapted from the book Courage by Charles Wagner, published in 1903….

These lines are not written for any particular class of people. I seek to speak of those things which are common to all, being day by day more convinced that the nature of humanity is everywhere identical. However, I have not been able to avoid thinking more especially of those whose morning is gloomy and whose youth was hard.

Goethe declares in his history of his life that “what we desire in our youth we possess abundantly in our old age.” An astonishing saying, and one which seems inconsistent with truth; but if we look at it more closely, such is not the case. We do, indeed, apply ourselves with ardor to the pursuit of that which we desire; and, whether our ambition be noble or the reverse, it is seldom that we do not end by fulfilling it, in part at least.

Our life is eventually stamped by our ideal. No one, therefore, can watch the tendency of their desires too carefully. What we most often lack in youth is the knowledge of what it is wisest to desire. To wish for vain things is to take a will-o’-the-wisp for our guide along the road. How many of us have wandered in this way after these uncertain lanterns of light, which promised happiness but led us into the swamps.

I should like to make you desire the things that are real, that are worth being loved and acquired by stress and toil; and among all these things there is nothing to be compared with force. Force is itself a virtue; and by virtue I understand every power that excites in us an intenser life, and joy, and hope.

Our every-day existence often has the effect of making us forget who we are. It smothers us, according to our lot, beneath sparkling doodads or sordid rags, either of which are unworthy of us. But there are calls which awaken the soul; and may my words today accomplish this purpose for you.

I should like to sound in your ears a clarion call that would fire your heart. I should like to reveal to you a vision of force, of benevolence, of consecrated courage, after which it will be impossible for you to be satisfied with enervating pleasures, or to give yourself up to barren discouragement. Let us hope that my wish may be fulfilled, both for your own sake and for the sake of those who love you.

In our journey through life, we must always be vigilant. Vigilance is organized wherever there is any property to guard; for everything that exists has its enemies, and to secure its safety we must be ever on the alert. However little we may know ourselves, we know our enemies. Every one of us has them. The enemies of which I speak are all those causes of weakness and humiliation, which hinder us from being what we ought to be, and from fulfilling the object of our lives.

In time of war the gravest danger is to have soldiers in the ranks or the forts who sympathize with the enemy. I do not hesitate to say that this critical situation exists for every man and woman, and that constant peril arises from the fact that the enemy has spies within the place. Each person has within themselves a power that can destroy them. Without the inward watch, the best will be lost.

I am not one of those who cry out in alarm “Take care!” at every moment. Those perpetual alarmists destroy your confidence; but blindness and false assurance differ from confidence. Confidence is a great good; false assurance is a form of cowardice. Virility demands that we should take account of danger, should face it, and take measures against it.



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