It’s a simple fact that when men or women face mortal danger, every single molecule in their bodies screams at them to seek shelter and safety. It takes immense effort to overcome the desire for self-preservation. Training can help, but it isn’t enough. What’s required is a fundamental, deeply embedded ethos—a core understanding that love may require their lives.
Parents possess this ethos almost as a matter of instinct. Intelligent armies construct this ethos by building bonds between brothers-in-arms. Dying for a nation is an abstract concept when the bullets fly. Risking everything for the brother beside you? That makes immediate, visceral sense. I won’t say that everyone I served with in Iraq was brave, but I cannot imagine my brothers failing me in a moment of crisis, and I pray that I would never fail them.
At the root of a failure of courage is often a failure of love. C.S. Lewis wrote that courage is “not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” What we witnessed from the police in Uvalde was the triumph of self-love over love of others, including of the young kids bleeding in that room.
At the testing point, the officers were confronted with a question, “Whom do you love?”
“I love me,” they responded, and they stood down.