For the Kingdom of God consists of and is based on not talk, but power—moral power and excellence of soul.I Corinthians 4:20
Sometimes you’ve got to stand and do what’s right. No matter the cost. You might lose a deal, clients, friends and family, your reputation or livelihood. You might get vilified, fired or jailed. You might even lose your life.
This may be Kingdom living approaching the summit of loving God with all your heart, mind and strength and loving your neighbor as yourself.
It takes moral power to stand—the ineffable grit that strengthens us to hold fast to what we know is right and oppose what we know is wrong; especially facing ridicule, ill-will, rejection, loss, and contempt. Moral courage is a gift and a discipline. It is self-control, patience, long-suffering, and deep obedience.
Decades ago a friend invited me to join his business venture. It was a lucrative opportunity, exciting, and opened the possibility of transitioning from litigation into international law and business—a long-term dream. Two of my girls were in college, so the extra income was a welcome benefit. What could go wrong? We were both believers. And the business only stacked an additional 10-15 hours a week on top of my full-time litigation practice and teaching my kids at home after work.
My wife said something didn’t smell right. It was too good to be true. My wife is a genius. I should have listened.
My son…if you seal a commitment with a handshake to someone without first knowing the value of his word. Then your words may well be the trap that snares you, and your promise may seal your fate. You can’t be sure to whom you hitched your future. Proverbs 6:1 The Voice
Worldwide operations demanded I make myself available 24/7 and begin to travel overseas. At first it was energizing—plugging into the matrix. I’d wake in the middle of the night to respond to emails originating in exotic time zones. Solving legal and operational issues to keep the machine afloat.
Big problems surfaced within months. I found myself swimming in dark international waters with new European and Asian colleagues bearing secretive personalities and murky moral values. I slowly discovered the company culture was ‘over promise and under deliver’ while the international principals drained the firm of cash to buy luxury cars, real estate, and lavish vacations.
I kept pace, but something had to give. It always does. I pulled away from my family, turning a deaf ear to their pleas to walk away.
I drove myself with caffeine and sugar. The stress took a toll causing a medical issue that led to heavy anti-inflammatories and prescription pain medication. Then there were panic attacks and insomnia. But I told myself it was okay. We were maintaining our comfortable Southern California lifestyle, my law practice was solid, and my kids would graduate from college debt free.
But my body was crumbling. And so was I.
Margaret Heffernan said, “The truth won’t set us free—until we develop the skills and the habit and the talent and the moral courage to use it.”
You can develop and strengthen moral courage in your own life. Start with the small decisions. Do what you say and say what you do.
God, in his mercy, examined me. I discovered my friend was leading a secretive life away from his family. I was appalled, outraged. And though I’m not usually intimidated, I kept silent on the matter. I hope it wasn’t the money, but it might have been a factor. I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I rationalized that I could counsel him to change directions and stay loyal to those he loved. I raised the subject a few times, but didn’t press the issue. Moral weakness. The fear of man.
The worst was watching my family watch me slip head-first into the gray zone. They suffered no confusion. But I hurt them betraying my core values
There were other troubling issues, but, when faced with bending certain inviolable rules, I clenched and unequivocally refused.
The business relationship terminated a few months later. But I had messes to clean up. I asked God to forgive my cowardice and compromise. I asked my wife and family to forgive me for not listening and being a poor example under fire. Finally, I forgave myself, learned some lessons, and reset, and relaunched down the straight and narrow.
For the first time in months, I could breathe. I could sleep at night. I had my life back… for the simple reason that I refused to bend my morals any longer.
Obtaining peace is sometimes as simple as saying no to the things you know are wrong. And I will always choose peace over money, privilege, and status.
I want to conclude with a quote from Brett McCay’s Developing Manly Courage. Brett has distilled what it looks like to have moral courage in the modern world where many factors can ‘blur’ the lines, turning what should be a clear black and white into shades of grey:
When you’re tempted to lie to your boss to save your skin, don’t. When the cashier gives you more change than you’re supposed to get, let them know. When someone pressures you to reveal confidential information, tell them to take a hike.
“Moral courage thrives on empathy and compassion, the ability to understand the needs and hurts of others. If you’re a wealthy CEO but have never lost touch with the everyday working man, then you won’t be tempted to cheat them. If you work with the homeless and poverty-stricken, you will have the courage to fight for policies and programs to help improve their lives.
Thus, the best way to develop moral courage is through offering regular service to others. When you work with people face to face, you gain the courage not to turn away and to fight for the right thing for them. You will find that this courage will not only apply to the groups of people you directly serve but will expand your compassion, and thus your courage, to do what is right for all people and in every situation.”Developing Manly Courage. Brett McCay
I want to encourage you to start small and start right away. The people of earth need you. We need men and women of high moral courage. And don’t forget: God is with you. He will help you be courageous if you ask him to.
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.Isaiah 41:10 NLT