Tapestry of Faith: Virtue Ethics: An Ethical Development Program for High School Youth

Activity 1: What Is Courage?

Part of Virtue Ethics

Activity time: 10 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint, markers, and tape

Preparation for Activity

  • Post two sheets of newsprint, one labeled “Courage: Up Side,” the other labeled “Courage: Down Side.”

Description of Activity

Participants identify positive and negative aspects of the virtue of courage.

Tell the group that today they will explore courage. Invite them to sit for a moment and think about “courage” as a virtue. Then, invite the group to define “courage;” let them grapple with definitions. If needed, offer the Merriam Webster definition: “the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” Or, share the words of the fictional father and lawyer, Atticus Finch, in Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird: “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.”

Now, lead a discussion, recording positive and negative aspects of courage on newsprint as they arise. Use these prompts:

  • What have you been told about courage: What it means, when to use it, when not to use it
  • How would you define “courage?”
  • Who defines what is courageous and what is not? Does it mean different things to different people? How do you know if you acted with courage?
  • Is there a relationship between fear and courage?
  • Do you need to use courage in moderation, too? Can you have too much courage?
  • Is someone doing something dangerous always courageous? What about a lion tamer in a circus? A race car driver? Someone driving way above the speed limit? What if they are driving an ambulance? Is courage defined by just the act, or does the reason for the act-the hoped-for outcome-matter?