Courage is the proper response to disagreement

Choosing how to respond to diverse points of view matters.

Eric Nimmo, Freelance Writer

Whenever we are presented with a challenging idea, we must choose how we respond. In other words, we must understand how we disagree.

Beginning in antiquity and progressing to the classical era, courage has been thought of as a virtue—and it should be. C.S. Lewis describes courage as the virtue necessary to practice every other virtue. In the same way, cowardice plays a similar role—it is the vice necessary to practice every other type of vice.


Intellectual honesty is a virtue which requires courage meaning we must read and understand the other point of view before attacking it. So too, the opposite is true: cowardice is a necessary condition for intellectual dishonesty.

Like most vices, intellectual dishonesty can take on many more forms than its opposite virtue. While intellectual honesty can only be a charitable and fair reading of material and responding directly to the argument, intellectual dishonesty encompasses everything else. Examples of intellectual dishonesty become too expansive to list, but include the litany of logical fallacies used in attacking thought or writing, failing to grasp an argument before engaging it or simply dismissing the argument out of hand.

Intellectual dishonesty presents a real problem in our walk as both students and as believers. There are two reasons: intellectual dishonesty forces its wielder to practice cowardice, a vice in its own right. More importantly, intellectual dishonesty avoids truth.


Truth is foundational to the believer because God commands us to first love him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. He demands we love, and to love we must know how to love. Love requires knowing truth and knowing what is right. The second command to love—loving my neighbor as myself—also requires truth. It demands that we understand how we ought to love and how to love well.

If we are to ask how we love best, the question requires we bring forth ideas and exchange thoughts. We must courageously think through principles, forming thoughts and presenting these thoughts to others. Our hope is to learn what truth is through exchanging ideas and considering consequences. Disagreement becomes necessary to sift the good ideas from the bad, but how we do this matters.


It matters if we are courageous or cowardly in engaging ideas. We can choose to think about an idea, agree or disagree and then respond. These actions make both parties better. They strengthen good ideas and dismiss bad ideas while seeking truth. Practicing these is courageous. The alternative is to be cowardly. We can reject an idea without trying to understand, just because we do not like it. We can attack, dismiss, decry and denounce—we can do anything but engage in the idea. We can be cowards, but either way we must choose how we respond.

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