THE CARPENTER'S SHOP: Men, women of courage and conviction

Dr. Barry Carpenter

A young man went to apply for a job and on the application was a question that posed a moral/ethical dilemma that went like this:

You’re driving along in your car on a wild, stormy night. You pass by a bus stop, and you see three people standing by the side of the road:

• An old lady, who looks as if she is about to die.

• Your best friend, who once saved your life.

• The perfect woman you have been dreaming about all your life.

There is room for only one passenger in your car, and you can’t return to the bus stop once you have left it. Which one would you choose to offer a ride?

You could pick up the old lady, because she is going to die, and therefore you should save her first. Or, you could take your best friend because he once saved your life, and this would be the perfect chance to pay him back. However, you may never be able to find your perfect dream lover again.

The candidate who was hired (out of 200 applicants) had no trouble coming up with his answer. What did he say?

He said, ‘I would give the car keys to my old friend and let him take the old lady to the hospital. I would stay behind and wait for the bus with the woman of my dreams.

This scenario came to my mind last week when I saw the difficult moral, ethical, and legal dilemma facing our City Council. I observed good men and women take their commitment to decision making seriously.

It takes wisdom and courage to be a leader. There are times when leadership is very lonely because few understand the path of accountability and responsibility. True servant leaders are most concerned about ascertaining and meeting the needs of others rather than trying to acquire personal power, wealth, or recognition. There are people here in Destin who serve the community like that. There are times, after having considered the counsel of legal, moral, and public counsel, one goes deep into one’s own soul and asks the most important questions. That requires courage.

Courage creates respect. It is sorely needed now in our world. It is not just physical bravery like David facing Goliath. It is the fortitude seen in men like Nelson Mandela or Steve Jobs and Walt Disney, who took risks with their lives and fortunes. Courage takes many forms.  

Courage is acting in spite of our fears. Fear and courage are brothers.  We all have fears but conquering those fears is real courage. Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “Courage is about doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared. Have the courage to act instead of react.” 

Courage is being true to your own convictions. The ancient theologian Soren Kierkegaard said, “To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.” It is a beautiful thing to watch a person act in integrity … to be true to himself or herself.

Courage is tenacity in tough times.  I am reminded of the saying by Mark Twain when he said, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” In religion, business, and politics there is need for inner toughness. It’s finding your voice and taking a stand and keeping on doing it when others tire. Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”

Courage is being true to God’s standards. Sometimes we are called not to defeat evil but to stand against it. The greatest heroes stand because it is right to do so, not because they believe they will walk away with their lives. Such selfless courage is a victory in itself.[1]

What distinguishes a city is men and women of courage and conviction. We have many such people here. They are kind yet courageous. They are gentle yet strong. They are principled yet considerate of others.

Dr. Barry Carpenter is pastor of Destin United Methodist Church and can be reached at