Have you ever wondered why it is that being called a coward is considered such a grave insult? It’s because courage is the lynchpin of character — that which makes possible every single one of its other dimensions; as Samuel Johnson once said (and Winston Churchill later paraphrased): “courage is reckoned the greatest of all virtues; because, unless a man has that virtue, he has no security for preserving any other.”
The exercise of any virtue requires the capacity to endure hardship, conquer fear and temptation, choose the riskier and more strenuous path when you’d rather take the easier way out — and this capacity is enabled by courage. Without courage, it’s impossible to be disciplined, honest, chaste, patient, self-reliant, compassionate, or resolute. Without courage, it’s impossible to be anything other than a non-entity.
While few of us are called to charge into battle these days, we all still need an ample arsenal of courage to stand up for those we love, defend unpopular beliefs, take professional and creative risks, and continue to choose the good, true, and honorable in a world where it can be hard to keep carrying the fire. And as Theodore Roosevelt observed, it is only by exercising courage in these smaller ways, that we’ll be able to summon it in more dramatic fashion should a true crisis arise.
If your heart could use strengthening, below we present 54 of the best quotes about courage ever spoken and set down. While we did our best to vet them, and successfully confirmed the accuracy and authorship of 90%+ of them, we drew many from old books from the 19th century, which didn’t include the quote’s original source, and used obscure translations of foreign/ancient texts that make the tracing of its origin difficult. But if the province of a few of the quotes is shadowy, the truth behind all of them is sound. Read them over, commit some to memory, write one down you particularly like and stick it to your bathroom mirror. And then go forth with greater fortitude to face life’s challenges.
Fortune favors the bold!
“The conscience of every man recognizes courage as the foundation of manliness, and manliness as the perfection of human character.”Thomas Hughes
“Without courage there cannot be truth, and without truth there can be no other virtue.”Sir Walter Scott
“Courage charms us, because it indicates that a man loves an idea better than all things in the world, that he is thinking neither of his bed, nor his dinner, nor his money, but will venture all to put in act the invisible thought of his mind.”Ralph Waldo Emerson
“We have more respect for a man who robs boldly on the highway, than for a fellow who jumps out of a ditch, and knocks you down behind your back. Courage is a quality so necessary for maintaining virtue, that it is always respected even when it is associated with vice.”Samuel Johnson
“A man without courage is a knife without an edge.”Proverb
“Courage consists, not in blindly overlooking danger, but in seeing and conquering it.”Jean Paul
“All brave men love; for he only is brave who has affections to fight for.”Nathaniel Hawthorne
“Fortitude is the guard and support of the other virtues.”John Locke
“It is an error to suppose that courage means courage in everything. Most people are brave only in the dangers to which they accustom themselves.”Edward Bulwer-Lytton
“A man without courage is to me the most despicable thing under the sun, a travesty on the whole scheme of creation.”Jack London
“Conscience is the root of all true courage; if a man would be brave let him obey his conscience.”James Freeman Clarke
“The best hearts are ever the bravest.”Laurence Sterne
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear.”Mark Twain
“The man who has never been in danger cannot answer for his courage.”François de La Rochefoucauld
“Courage is grace under pressure.”Ernest Hemingway
“Courage without discipline is nearer beastliness than manhood.”Sir P. Sidney
“Physical courage which despises all danger, will make a man brave in one way; and moral courage, which despises all opinion, will make a man brave in another. The former would seem most necessary for the camp; the latter for the council; but to constitute a great man both are