Bravery, or fortitude is the feeling that motivates soldiers to rise out of desolate trenches, bystanders to intervene in complicated, and possibly dangerous, situations, and individuals to stand up to aggressors. Fortitude is the backbone of society, the method by which countries and their people gain and control power and peace. Without the courage to take a stand for beliefs, there are no civil rights movements, no female empowerment and no laws to regulate child labor.
“Fortitude is the guard and support of the other virtues,” a piece of the human puzzle fundamental to evolution and progress, according to philosopher John Locke. But while courage is obvious in the stories of ordinary citizens standing up to gunmen, it’s also necessary for the daily lives of students. Sloth is a consuming vice, and as soon as students open the door to laziness it swoops in like a hawk and eats away at productivity and success, breaking their spirit like a mouse’s spine. It takes fortitude to stand up to the hawk, for the mouse to gain armor and not only push the attacking bird of fury away, but even smite it with the mighty sword of courage.
What does this look like? It looks like checking “no” in the box for the senior slide. It means dedicating time and effort to finishing the school year with conscious effort, and not allowing the easy, mistaken-laden, way to become the only way. Spring often means dropping grades, rising tardies and increasing volume of classroom digressions. Sloth is the friend that slips into student’s life like a snake, moving quietly and quickly, twisting around the student’s throat and squeezing before the student can even realize that the friendly colors were only a distraction to the danger and venom of the beast. Before laziness can creep into the Minnehaha population, courage needs to take seed. C.S. Lewis said, “courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” In the next months as the school year winds to a close, the testing point of the Minnehaha student body will approach like an insurmountable mountain. Especially for seniors, with college so close in view, sloth will be a predator that seems impossible to even catch in the act, let alone defeat. But with the protection of fortitude, the conscious armament of mind and future against the monstrous sloth, the “testing point” of spring can be defeated, courage used as the tool to push past laziness and the false golden idols of Netflix and video games.
Being brave is never easy. It’s never a simple switch that can be turned on in moments of need or turmoil. It’s difficult to move forward in battle when every survivalist instinct bred into you is screaming to go back. It’s challenging to stand up for women’s right in a culture where men are still regarded as superior. But in the end, the payout of making a stand is worth it. Change and hope is delivered via fortitude, courage behaving as the wings on which progress rises. Right now, as a high school student, it may seem that the individual voice matters little, and the individual work ethic matters even less. But with the multiplying effect of taking a stand, work ethic is a powerful propellant into the future.
So this spring when the haunting allure of a world without snow is beginning to trickle into the halls of M.A., and for seniors the light at the end of the tunnel is drawing nearer and nearer with all the power of a revelation from on high, don’t sacrifice potential to sloth. Remain courageous, armed with fortitude and the foresight to see the advantages of that decision. Remain aware and respondent, and the future will be unlocked along with the potential of your mind.
Bravery may seem at a glimpse the stuff of legends. The motivation of knights and magicians, a trait that lies only in the fantastical or the far removed in the war torn areas that haunt our globe. But courage is not only necessary for the Cowardly Lion or the American sniper in Iraq; courage is required here and now. Standing up to sloth requires a backbone that doesn’t come easily, the spine that is strong enough to push past the easy temptations of pretty lights and shadows requires an injection of bravery that can only be done to yourself. It is a personal commitment that has extraordinary results. This is the mouse defeating the lion, David fighting Goliath; this is the Minnehaha student body conquering the senior slide and spring fever in order to finish the year with the same exuberance and strength that we began it.