What exactly is courage? Courage is the ability to do what needs to be done, or feel what needs to be felt, in spite of fear. It’s the willingness to risk or act even when we are frightened or in pain. If you want to gain emotional strength and have more courage, you can. In fact, you already have a great deal of courage. We seldom think much about the courage we exert in simple, “normal” situations: having a baby, going to work day after day, sustaining relationships. It takes courage to fall in love, be honest with ourselves, survive a loss, move away from home, share a fear with a friend, ask for a raise, get a divorce, take on a job that challenges us, grow older, or tell someone when we’re angry or hurt. Try writing down a list of things you’ve done even though you felt afraid. Those were acts of courage. Sometimes just getting up in the morning and proceeding with
your life takes tremendous courage.
I hope it’s clear by now that we already have courage. Being courageous, and moving toward a fuller realization of our own authentic self, is a natural process. What is it that keeps us from realizing our full, courageous potential? Fear! What do we fear? We fear the unknown, anything that has been painful for us in the past, or anything that feels different and risky.
Actually risk has an entirely different side too. With the right attitude, we can experience risk as exhilarating and creative. Risk is necessary for change, and change is necessary for growth. Growth is inevitable. We will grow, but will it be toward freedom or toward fearfulness? In order to be free, we need to learn to honor our fears but not allow them to control our lives.
Bringing our fears out into the open and talking honestly about them helps us work through them. An unspoken fear grows and gains force becoming much more powerful than one
that is shared.
The trouble is, we’re afraid to talk about our fears because we think others will see us as too emotional, immature, or foolish. So we keep quiet, thus creating a self-enclosed inner world in which we condemn ourselves for feeling as we do and believe we’re the only fearful people we know. Our fear creates crippling isolation. But as we risk voicing our fear and find it accepted gently by others, it loses its power.