Bert Lahr as Cowardly Lion from Oz
Bert Lahr as Cowardly Lion from Oz

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. ~ Nelson Mandela

A – Z Challenge – Day Three


I used to think that one had to work up to acts of courage. That courage was a state you reached after you’d been through a lot.

For years I wondered when I’d have enough courage to take the actions needed to change my life.

And therein was the crux of the problem.

You cannot wait to feel courageous in order to take courageous action. It is only by taking courageous action (despite your fear) that you develop courage. Courage is the muscle that is strengthened and developed by taking brave action in the face of fear.

Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway. ~ John Wayne

Shaking in our boots

So, when you are feeling absolutely gobsmacked by fear and doubt, yet you decide to act anyway, that’s courage.

I remember a scene in We Bought a Zoo with Matt Damon’s character, Benjamin Mee, talking to his son about life, “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

That’s some of the best, kindest, most helpful advice any kid’s father could ever give him.

Twenty Seconds of Insane Courage can Change Your Life

So, when I sent in my application to the fifth graduate program I applied to, after five years of rejections, that was courage. When I moved to New York City at the age of 23, never having set foot in the city in my life, with nothing but admission to New York University, the promise of a work-study job and $750 in my pocket, that took courage. When I told my corporate boss — at the age of 40 — that if I was lucky I had half of my life left, and I didn’t want to spend it dealing with office politics and a slow death from liquid paper fumes, that was courage. I quit my job to pursue teaching and writing, even though I had no idea how I would make that happen. That was pure, blind courage.

Did all these actions result in a life filled with unicorns and rainbows and Skittles falling from the sky?

No, they did not.

Generally speaking, they resulted in my abject terror and sadness and disappointment, followed eventually by the realization that I hadn’t made ‘the biggest mistake of my life,’ followed by ‘Well, actually, maybe this is a good thing,’ followed by ‘I can’t believe how long it took me to do this,” followed by a settling in to a new way of seeing myself and my life, thinking, “This is good.  This is so good!”

Courage via
Courage via

So, if you are standing on the edge of a precipice today and wondering if you have the courage to take a leap of faith, look up for just a moment.

Study the other side of that chasm.

See the woman in black with the striped sunhat, waving to you?

That’s my spirit signaling yours that it’s going to be OK.

Run as fast as you can and fling yourself into the new. Your heart will grow five sizes bigger if you do.

© 2014  Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved

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9 thoughts on “Courage

  1. Your blog is gorgeous and your thoughts are provoking, your personal stories also make the advice real and achievable. So pleased I found you through the A-Z Challenge.

    1. Thank you so much, Imogen. I appreciate the A – Z Challenge as it is introducing me to so many new voices.

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