Fearing Courageously In the Face of COVID-19

Dr. Warren Kinghorn reflects on the fear that grips our world during the COVID-19 outbreak. What should we do with this fear? As Christians, is it even acceptable that we harbor fear? To address these questions, Dr. Kinghorn looks to the reflections of Thomas Aquinas. The insight from the medieval Christian philosopher and theologian reveals how our fear can stem out of love and can breed courage. Among global and individual fears, it is crucial to recognize our commitment to love well. It is out of this responsibility that courage is incited and sustained.

“But what does it mean for Christian physicians like me not to be afraid in the face of COVID-19, when people are dying?

The emotion of fear, Aquinas argued, is a good part of being human. We humans are natural and inescapable lovers: when we perceive something threatening those whom we love — including ourselves — we naturally are afraid. If our love is healthy, then our fear is also healthy. That sort of healthy fear is not a sin. Rather, it’s a sign of love.

Everything hinges, Aquinas says, on what we do with that fear…

Both of these ways of living — reckless disregard and stifling self-protection — are not centrally problems of fear. They are problems of love. Fearing well in the time of COVID-19 requires that we love well.

To love well in the face of fear, Aquinas says, is to be courageous. To be courageous is not to run headlong into the face of danger with no regard for the consequences, nor to deny or dismiss fear. Courage is not the opposite of fear. Rather, to be courageous is to rightly appraise danger and feel the weight of fear, and yet, even so, to stand firm and do what love requires.”

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