One of the hazards of being a writer, and there are many, is that you never quite live up to your words, especially if you write about spiritual matters. You always fall short. So just let me say straightaway that I do not hold myself up as some giant when it comes to thumos.

This will not shock those who know me. I've lacked thumos for much of my life. At the same time, I've undertaken a good amount of soul-work to grow it, season it, deploy it. I am guilty of cowardice, though I don't think this sin (yes, sin) defines me.

In this book I will share with you my victories and the victories of others. And if my thumos is strong enough, I will share with you my defeats, because it's not our strengths that make us relatable and lead to fellowship and even brotherhood or sisterhood. It's our weaknesses, through which we're perfected, that bond us.

And while we have sibling-hood on our minds, now's a good time to point out a distinction about this book that, like thumos, is bound to raise eyebrows. Both genders possess thumos, and it tends to express its animated spiritedness differently. Generally speaking, a woman's is expressed most strongly in intimate relationships, especially with children, and a man's tends to be deployed upon the world "out there," that is, outside the house. Of course there is overlap, and of course there are exceptions, and those exceptions should be honored instead of being used as material for jagged punch lines. We should applaud the good side of thumos wherever we can find it. (We'll talk about the other side in chapter 4.)

Here's an example. A friend of mine and his wife were having dinner with another couple and talking about gender roles. The other couple was more liberal, so they had a more general, less specific interpretation. In fact, the well-educated husband thought their understanding was so broad that if at nighttime they suspected someone was trying to break into their home, he said, it would be the responsibility of the person closest to the bedroom door to get up and investigate. His usually-just-as-liberal wife looked at him first with horror and then with contempt.

Liberal or conservative, theist or atheist—a man, muscular or weakling, is expected to confront the intruder. This has to do with more than innate physical strength. It's also because men possess a palpable thumotic energy that can either be valorous or sinister, depending on how it's used. God is thumotic, and as his image bearers, so are we.

Finally, a warning: Thumos is disruptive. Many people think disruption is sinful, and it's certainly unmannerly. In a church culture dominated by female sensibilities that make it wired more for safety than for battle, morality and manners are pervasively put forward as one and the same. That Jesus was mighty unmannerly is just one indicator of our drift and diminishment.

Thumos bites into what's wrong with the status quo and will not let go, much like Haggis with a bone. There are people, lots of people, inside and outside the church, who love the status quo. They do not take kindly to anyone messing with what is—even when what is is killing them and others. So know that when your thumos urges you onto whatever battlefield has long been awaiting you, you're going to make some enemies. Jesus said to pray for your enemies, and he wouldn't have said this if you weren't going to make some. And he never said you couldn't have any.


Unleashing Courage: The Hidden Power of a Man's Soul
Copyright © 2009 by Paul Coughlin
ISBN 9780764205774

Published by Bethany House Publishing, a division of Baker Publishing Group 
PO Box 6287 Grand Rapids MI 49516-6287

Used by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher, except as provided for by USA copyright law.