The emotions have an innate need to be guided by reason. An emotionally healthy life is one in which the emotions are moderated by right reason. It follows that emotional stability and well-being are the result of a certain structuring in which the emotions of the concupiscible and irascible appetites are subject to a will that in turn is subject to reason.
An emotionally unhealthy life is one in which the emotions govern the will and reason. In this case, the emotions are not guided at all, or they are governed by a mind not rectified by reason via the intellectual virtues, such as wisdom and prudence.
There are a host of emotions that are left out in the treatment of temperance and its various parts, namely the emotions of the irascible appetite, which include fear, daring, hope, and despair. Life brings with it all sorts of difficulties, and it is through these emotions that we relate to them. To relate to these difficulties well requires that these emotions be moderated by the appropriate virtues, namely fortitude and its parts.
Now the greatest achievement of love is to learn to love the other as another self. Man's perfection consists in the possession of God in knowledge and love. A perfect love of another is thus one that wills that the happiness of knowing and loving God befall him or her. Human life is a quest for the Supreme Good, and a good human life is about willing the good, which is precisely what love is. In other words, human life is about learning to love.
The virtue of temperance is thus not enough for emotional well-being, since temperance deals with the greatest pleasures, not the greatest difficulties. Rather, it belongs to fortitude to remove the obstacles that withdraw the will from following reason on account of difficulties that give rise to fear and sorrow.But love is difficult to achieve. It is difficult in general, only because love is channeled through virtue, and virtue is difficult. And it is difficult more specifically because special difficulties arise that become obstacles in the quest for the Supreme Good. Hence, the need for a host of virtues that will enable us to overcome these obstacles. Emotional health, in other words, demands that we aspire to something higher than ourselves and our own personal comfort. It demands that our life become a quest for the Supreme Good, that is, for God. It is this quest that brings movement and meaning to human life. It is true that any goal endows our life with movement, and thus a certain meaning. But a truly good life is one that aspires after what is truly good. Thus it is not possible to achieve an emotionally healthy life unless one aspires after what is truly good and truly larger than ourselves.
The typical hedonist today does not aspire to anything larger and higher, but settles for "feeling good". Such a life does not require fortitude. But a truly meaningful life, one whose meaning (direction) is determined in regards to man's true end — which is the knowledge and love of the greatest good — does indeed require a host of virtues belonging to fortitude.
Fortitude in the Midst of Battle
Fortitude binds the will firmly to the good of reason in the face of the greatest evils, and the most fearful of all bodily evils is death. And so the very idea of fortitude presupposes that there are certain things we should love more than our own lives, certain things we ought to be willing to die for. We hold that the human person ought to love what is larger than himself, namely truth, justice, and the common good of the social whole. He ought to love the good of the entire civil community so much as to be willing to expose himself to the danger of death for its sake, and we would argue that he ought to love God (who is Truth) more than himself, and be willing to expose himself — not others — to the dangers of death for His sake, that is, for His cause.
Fortitude is the virtue that moderates the emotions of fear and daring in accordance with right reason. It is not, as some are wont to believe, extraordinary daring. Sitting in a bathtub full of deadly snakes, or jumping from one speedboat to another, are acts of daring, not acts of fortitude. Had the person been attempting to rescue a little girl trapped in a pit of snakes, or a man unable to steer the speedboat as a result of a heart attack or stroke, we could speak of fortitude, but not without a pursuit of the good. St. Thomas writes:
Fortitude strengthens a man's mind against the greatest danger, which is that of death. Now fortitude is a virtue; and it is essential to virtue to tend to good; wherefore it is in order to pursue some good that man does not fly from the danger of death. But the dangers of death arising out of sickness, storms at sea, attacks from robbers, and the like, do not seem to come on a man through his pursuing some good. On the other hand, the dangers of death which occur in battle come to man directly on account of some good, because, to wit, he is defending the common good by a just fight. (ST. II-II.123, a. 5)
The willingness to fall in battle is not by any means limited to the context of an actual war between nations. There are "private battles", as in the case of a court judge who refuses to yield to death threats and delivers a just judgment nonetheless. John the Baptist is a perfect example of a man of fortitude with respect to a "private combat", for he did not refrain from speaking out against Herod for repudiating his first wife and marrying his brother's wife while Philip was still alive. This eventually led to his death. Similarly, St. Thomas More refused to take the oath enacted by Parliament. To do so would contravene the judgment of his conscience. As a result, he too lost his head and won the crown of martyrdom.
More current examples of fortitude might include a bishop or priest's refusal to provide a funeral mass for an unrepentant mafia boss, despite death threats from family members. Certainly the threat to court judges is still a very real possibility. Politicians who choose to take a firm stand on certain issues, in favor of justice, might very well risk assassination, especially in parts of the developing world. A fireman rushing into a burning building in order to save lives, knowing that there is a very good chance he will not come out alive, is indeed an instance of fortitude.
Fortitude is not fearlessness. Some people perform acts of apparent fortitude, that is, without the virtue. This occurs when they tend to what is difficult as though it were not, a behaviour due either to ignorance, that is, they are simply unaware of the extent of the dangers involved. Sometimes a person has so often escaped dangers in the past that on the basis of that experience he is rather confident of overcoming current dangers. Or, a person might possess a certain skill which leads him to think little of the dangers of battle, thinking himself more than capable of defending himself against them. Sometimes a person will act through the impulse of a passion, such as excessive anger, or sorrow, of which he wishes to rid himself. These are not acts of fortitude precisely because no moderation of fear is involved.