Moral courage is often harder than physical courage. We will invest ourselves deeply in worry about the 92% of things over which we have no control in order to avoid the pain of dealing with the 8% that we can control.
Alan Loy McGinnis was a psychologist and author who wrote a few good books. In one he tells about a business man who was stressed to the max, worried about all kinds of things, until the day he analyzed his anxieties and realized that:
40% were things that would likely never happen.
30% were past decisions that were unchangeable.
12% were unimportant criticism from others.
10% were health related, but his health was generally OK.
8% were legitimate worries that he could actually do something about.
I imagine most of us can identify with that. The problem is that lingering 8% usually requires some kind of moral courage.
For many of us, moral courage is harder than physical courage. We will invest ourselves deeply in worry about the 92% of things over which we have no control in order to avoid the pain of dealing with the 8% that we can control. Like the business woman who will waste hours and hours trying to fix a computer problem she knows nothing about when she really needs to pay somebody to fix the computer and fire the secretary that is alienating her clients. She’d rather cuss the computer than confront the secretary. It takes less courage.
The Apostle Paul’s protégé, Timothy, was in a situation like that. The church he led had serious problems. Heresy was brewing in the pews, some of the elders were caught in sin, there was disharmony and competition in the membership, and disruption in the worship service.
The Apostle’s instruction for dealing with these problems was no doubt difficult for Timothy to hear: “Tim, you are the pastor. You have the authority to deal with these difficulties. Use it.”
The Apostle wrote: “Command certain men not to teach strange doctrines … Command and teach these things … Command the rich not to be arrogant.” (1 Tim. 1:3; 4:11; 6:17-18 emphasis added).
Tim the timid needed to become Tim the courageous. Pastor Timid needed to be Pastor Fearless.
But it isn’t just Pastor Tim, is it? Moral courage is a prerequisite for anyone in leadership, especially anyone who decides to be a Christ-follower in this world.
Courage is the strength to take a risk, to persevere, to face danger, fear or difficulty. Moral courage is one of the keys to success in high stress. It’s what Timothy needed to ‘take command’ of a difficult situation. And it’s what we need to take command of ours.