4 min read

by Jean Houston

Stories of courage have the ability to shake things up and inspire us to live in an expanded way. One needn’t climb Mount Everest or jump out of a perfectly good airplane in order to test one’s mettle. Emotional and mental courage can be every bit as challenging. It can sometimes be as difficult as saying, “I forgive you.”

Courage is about stepping into your grander self, your bigger story. What are your fears, and where do you find that you limit yourself? Are you afraid of standing out, of being noticed? Perhaps you are afraid of making the wrong decision. What are the limiting beliefs that keep you from stepping into your bigger, courageous self?

In her excellent book Those Who Dare: Real People, Real Courage, author Katherine Martin asked us to consider where we choose to limit ourselves:

One way we keep ourselves small is by thinking we’re not good enough. We’re not smart enough, not gregarious enough, not witty enough, not savvy enough, not pretty enough, not educated enough, not clever enough, not romantic enough endlessly not enough. When rooted in childhood these feelings of not being enough can come from parents, teachers, authority figures, cliques we never belonged to, kids we wanted to be like, or friends who dumped us. Somewhere inside us are dreams and desires we haven’t made good on because that little gnat keeps buzzing around our heads: “You’re not smart enough to do that” or “You’re not clever enough; are you kidding?” or “You’re not experienced enough for that!” What does your gnat have to say? What about you isn’t good enough? Who told you that? What does it kept you from doing?

She went on to pose this question: “Imagine what you could do if you knew, without a doubt, that you were enough. What would you do?”

Stephen Diamond offered ways to tap into your inner hero:

Courage is required in almost every basic human activity or endeavor. For instance, to allow oneself to love and commit to another person takes immense courage. Separating from our parents and forging an independent life for ourselves is a courageous act. To survive an abusive, traumatic or neglected childhood with some sense of dignity and integrity intact demonstrates tremendous courage and resilience.

Diamond also reminded us that it takes courage to be authentically oneself in the world, to be truly creative and artistically express one’s innermost self. Career and relationship changes require great courage, as does following a dream.

One of the things that the Cowardly Lion teaches us in The Wizard of Oz is that courage is not synonymous with being fearless. The Lion is scared nearly out of his skin by his environment and all of those living things in it. In order to present himself to Dorothy and her allies, he chooses to puff himself up in a show of great bravado to mask his insecurity and downright fear of any newcomer that happens by his little piece of the woods.

Here we all learn that the Lion’s blowhard bravado is merely an act to hide his insecurity and fear. Later, he must rise above his fears in order to stand before the great Wizard, though his knees are shaking terribly. He must persevere in the quest to find the Wicked Witch of the West when he and his comrades traverse a haunted forest filled with all sorts of scary things, including invisible ghosts with the power to lift the Tin Man off his feet.

If all this were not enough, the Lion must then steel his resolve to climb an impossible mountain, overcome his fears, trick the Witch’s armed guards, don a disguise that doesn’t quite cover him, enter into the very heart of the witch’s castle of darkness to rescue Dorothy, and defeat the powerful magic of the evil creature who lives there.

Having succeeded in the impossible task of bringing the broomstick of the Wicked Witch back to the Emerald City, the Lion must then hold his own before the billowing smoke, fire, and bellowing of the Wizard once again. He must courageously speak up for Dorothy and his friends when it looks like the Wizard is going to renege on his offer to help them.

Through all of this, the Cowardly Lion is afraid for his life and literally shaking in his fur, but he goes on. He goes on when there is little hope of success and when doom seems imminent at every turn. It is this going forth against all odds that is the heart of courage. (The word courage derives from the Latin cor or the French coeur, meaning “heart,” so one could say that courage is a matter of heart.)

You may currently be faced with a challenging situation where you must become as brave as the Cowardly Lion or the other characters of our story. It could be a matter of changing something in your life that is no longer working, confronting someone, or stepping forward to achieve a dream or goal against odds that seem insurmountable. Here is a pro - cess to help you move through the fear and into the part of yourself that knows what to do. This can be used for personal issues or to move forward into daunting big projects you wish to accomplish.


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