Fortitude is the capacity to resist the temptation to compromise hope and faith by transforming them – and thus destroying them – into empty optimism or into irrational faith. Fortitude is the capacity to say “no” when the world wants to hear “yes.”
… The third kind of fearlessness is to be found in the fully developed person, who rests within himself and loves life. The person who has overcome greed does not cling to any idol or any thing and hence has nothing to lose; he is rich because he is empty, he is strong because he is not the slave of his desires. He can let go of idols, irrational desires, and fantasies, because he is in full touch with reality, inside and outside himself. If such a person has reached full “enlightenment,” he is completely fearless. If he has moved toward his goal without having arrived, his fearlessness will also not be complete. But anyone who tries to move toward the state of being fully himself knows that whenever a new step toward fearlessness is made, a sense of strength and joy is awakened that is unmistakable. He feels as if a new phase of life had begun. He can feel the truth of Goethe’s lines: “I have put my house on nothing, that’s why the whole world is mine.” (Ich hab mein Haus auf nichts gestellt, deshalb gehört mir die ganze Welt.)
Hope and faith, being essential qualities of life, are by their very nature moving in the direction of transcending the status quo, individually and socially. It is one of the qualities of all life that it is in a constant process of change and never remains the same at any given moment. Life that stagnates tends to die; if the stagnation is complete, death has occurred. It follows that life in its moving quality tends to break out of and to overcome the status quo. We grow either stronger or weaker, wiser or more foolish, more courageous or more cowardly. Every second is a moment of decision, for the better or the worse. We feed our sloth, greed, or hate, or we starve it. The more we feed it, the stronger it grows; the more we starve it, the weaker it becomes.
What holds true for the individual holds true for a society. It is never static; if it does not grow, it decays; if it does not transcend the status quo for the better; it changes for the worse. Often we, the individual or the people who make up a society, have the illusion we could stand still and not alter the given situation in the one or the other direction. This is one of the most dangerous illusions. The moment we stand still, we begin to decay.
excerpt from: Erich Fromm (1968) The Revolution of Hope.pdf: Fortitude