I had a blanket I was wrapped up in, so I could pull it up over my eyes when the witch came on the Wizard of Oz.
My sister loved to watch that movie, and would beg me to watch it with her again and again. But it was a terrifying movie to me. Because of the witch.
Because she really wanted me to watch it, she preyed upon what she knew was my greatest kryptonite: FEAR! She knew I was terrified every day all day long, and experienced night terrors during the night.
But she actually got my attention when she said, “If you watch this with me, you can learn how the lion got rid of his fear and got courage in its place.”
I was way too young to know the word courage or what it meant, but I knew that I wanted, more than anything else, to conquer fear. So I was ready to cover my eyes and ears when the witch came on, but watch carefully in order to learn from the lion.
I’ve learned that the two, the lion’s fear and desire for courage, were intricately connected.
We are in a season where challenges in our nation, and actually the world, are giving us lots of reason to fear. But we must be like the lion and gather up our courage, and stand strong and united together!
The dictionary defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.”
Other dictionaries define courage as “moving forward and accomplishing things without fear.” I think it’s more accurate to say it is “moving forward and accomplishing things in spite of fear.”
I believe courage is developed in that as we do just that, move forward and accomplish things in spite of our fear.
Years ago, I heard Maya Angelou say that we all need to know our values and determine to live according to them. She added that courage needed to be in everyone’s list of values, because without it, we would not be able to live out our other values.
Courage. Yes … courage is the antidote to fear. And whether you call it a virtue, a value, or a state of mind, it is definitely a quality that we all need in our lives.
Research has long investigated the benefits of courage:
- Gives us the ability to act despite fear
- Helps us overcome the fear of rejection
- Empowers us to attempt things we’ve never done before
- Encourages us to take an honest look at ourselves and make profitable changes in our lives
- Provides good boundaries
- Increases our likelihood of success
- Gives us more influence
- Promotes living authentically and purposefully, with less temptation to be pulled off of that path
Sometimes I think courage provides us the ability to keep going when we just want to give up.
Perhaps you are like the lion, and you wish you had more courage. I have great news for you. You don’t have to go see the Wizard of Oz and worry about encountering the wicked witch along the way. You can begin stepping into courage, and becoming part of the solution TODAY!
As a scared little girl, and a scared teenager, I was so very weary of battling the fear. I knew that I also struggled with very little self-confidence, and a very poor self-esteem. Little did I know that conquering those would have to do with developing courage.
I set myself out on a journey of developing courage. I spent time in the library reading about courage, I spoke to mentors and people I respected about courage.
Although I was not an addict at the time (actually I was, as I revealed in last weeks blog. I was a sugar addict, but I was not aware that addiction applied to anything but alcohol or drugs). But I begin to pray the serenity prayer. Because I loved the line in the middle about courage: God grant me the serenity do you accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change those things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
After I would pray the prayer every morning, I would repeat hundreds of times, “God grant me the courage… God grant me the courage… God grant me the courage.”
Because there was no google at the time, I would return to the library day after day looking for a book or a magazine article that would tell me how to develop courage.
I never found the list of steps I was hoping to find. But interestingly enough, the more I read about courage, the more I begin to do things that I now know were my steps to courage.
Are you in a situation where you need more courage? Or maybe you need some encouragement to advance through the adversity that COVID 19 and cultural issues have landed on your doorstep. Or do you know someone else that desperately needs for you to mentor or coach them to step into courage? Here are the things that built my courage:
1. Take risks. Small ones at first. When we are unable to take risks, it’s an indication that fear is our master. Taking risks is not about being foolish. It is about standing face-to-face with what you fear, often not knowing the outcome, but courageously stepping forward anyway.
When I decided I wanted to go to graduate school, it was a huge risk. I had heard my first grade teacher say that I was “not even up to ordinary in the classroom, and was not educational material.“ I had believed that my whole life.
I was not at all sure that I was smart enough. I certainly had no funds for college, nor a good fairy waiting to pay my way.
To me, it was not a small risk. A great mentor in my life at that time advised me: “Go do a few little things that are scary to you, and get some ‘wins’ under your belt … then you might just be able to dare to submit an application to graduate school.” I complied and did three things:
- I asked my manager at the restaurant where I was working if he would be willing to schedule me around course work (I had always been willing to take whatever shifts I could get). I was terrified to ask; afraid he would let me go, because I was still a “new kid on the block.” But he said YES! That was one “win.”
- I needed my bangs trimmed, and had no money for that luxury. I asked a friend who was a stylist if she would allow me to watch her little girl on Saturday morning in return for a bang trim. I was so afraid of asking for anything that would benefit me. But I asked and she was delighted to do the trade. Not only did she trim my bangs, but trimmed my layers. Second “win.”
- I went to a support group for “singles again.” I was afraid it would be a place where people were “shopping for a new partner.” It was indeed. But I met someone enrolled in the same graduate school I was hoping to be accepted into. I got tons of information and encouragement to apply! Third “win!”
Three small “risks” that gave me the wherewithal to submit my application for graduate school!
2. Speak to your fear. Somewhere along the way, I began to feel like fear had been a lifelong companion. I had a long drive to my graduate school everyday, with no radio reception most of the way, so I began to speak to my fear.
I am often asked when I share this if I thought I was mentally ill. Maybe! But when I began to speak to it, I began to feel like I had the upper hand. After many commutes, I began to tell it to LEAVE ME ALONE! And that it was NOT THE BOSS OF ME! Eventually, I began to feel like it had to listen to me. It built enough courage in me to realize I did not have to entertain fear, much less welcome it into my life any longer.
To this day, when I need courage to rise up in my life, I tell the fear where to go and what to do when it got there!
3. Acknowledge and reward your efforts. Making note of your efforts, and rewarding yourself, regardless of the outcomes of your efforts, is so profitable and rewarding! I journaled pages and pages about my efforts, and gave myself meaningful rewards. Of course, at the time, I was still a sugar addict, so usually it was a hot, white cream filled, glazed, chocolate covered, donut from Krispy Cream when the red lights twirling outside let me know donuts were fresh and hot!
Why is courage so important?
1. Research reveals that the one quality found in every successful leader is courage. We need to step up as leaders in our own arenas during this challenging time. We need leaders who want to influence solutions!
2. Courage is a core foundational piece to being able to encourage others and ourselves. The word “encourage” comes from a French origin that means: “to transfer strength of heart.” There is no doubt that during this season, we need to be transferring strength of heart to one another.
3. It requires courage for us to evaluate ourselves honestly, to notice those things that need improvements in order us to become our best, and seek the help needed to accomplish it.
I believe that the most courageous act one can do is to inventory our lives with honesty, and do whatever it takes to become our very best! This is a process I repeat at least monthly. There’s not been a month, since I began this journey years ago, that I did not find much needed improvements in myself, both in who I am and how I express and live out who I am. I hope you will join me in that courageous act, regularly, consistently, and with passion to make modifications!
I believe in our current environment, the most extraordinary goal before us could be to seek courage, and begin to embrace current challenges as an opportunity for us all to become more resilient solution-makers.
Without being intentional, it’s easy to sink into fear, then ask ourselves things like, “When will things ever be normal again?” Or even more crisis-inducing thoughts like, “Will we even make it through this?”
I believe if we all reach for courage, we can come together. We need to love one another and care for one another more than we ever have. We need to garner enough courage to leave divisiveness behind, and to join our hands and hearts together. Despite age, socioeconomic background, race, or gender.
This is no time for me vs. you, or we versus them. If we join hands and hearts during our nations challenging times, we will all emerge more courageous and determined human beings, couples, families, and communities than our history has ever know.
It all begins with courage, which fans the flames of love and compassion. Love and compassion create unity. Will you have enough courage to allow the revolution to begin with you? I’m ALL IN!!! I believe you will be too! Together, we can make a difference!