Some people are born brave; I wasn’t one of those. Every act of courage I have ever engaged in has been calculated and costly. In the end, I’ve always been glad that I chose courage over fear.
The British dictionary defines courage as “the power or quality of dealing with or facing danger, fear, pain, etc. The American dictionary adds “without fear” to this definition, which I find laughable. Because every time I have chosen courage, fear was right there, taunting me. I just chose not to give in to it, not to let it win.
Like Nelson Mandela, “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.”
As a child, I was deathly afraid of the dark. I balked if my parents asked me to take the trash out at night. I imagined that all sorts of peril awaited me once I stepped outside the safety and warmth of the lit house, like perhaps being kidnapped by a villain. If the entire family was in the living room at night and I had to walk down the dark hallway to one of the bedrooms to fetch something, I ran like wind, evading shadowy figures on the way there and back.
My fear of the dark was so bad that if I woke up at night needing to go to the bathroom, I would lie awake in bed until morning. I was too afraid to get out of bed in the dark to turn the light on. What if a hand reached out from under the bed and grabbed my leg?
Fear tortured me for years, until I realized that it was like a mouse using a megaphone to sound like a lion. Fear’s proverbial bark was worse than its bite. Once it dawned on me that many of the things I feared were unlikely to happen, I started defying fear. I would jump out of bed in a mad rush to turn on the lights so I could go to the bathroom. I decided that if a hand indeed reached out and grabbed my leg in the process, I could scream, kick, and maybe even bite it. And surely, someone would come to my rescue! One by one, I faced my childhood fears.
As I have gotten older, the fears have changed. These days fears revolve around financial insecurity, health issues, rejection, global insecurity, etc. When I recognize fear trying to crowd me, I intentionally walk towards the thing I am afraid of. Sometimes the fear is exposed as imaginary, and it evaporates. Other times, the fear is real, dogging my every step. I refuse to let it paralyze me or make decisions for me. I choose courage.
Here are some of my favorite quotes about courage. May they inspire you to choose courage. Live brave!
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat” (emphasis mine).
~ Theodore Roosevelt
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.”
“The person who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore.”
“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.”
~William G. T. Shedd
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the judgment that something else is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.”
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, ‘I’ll try again tomorrow.'”
~Mary Anne Radmacher
Image: Krzysztof Szkurlatowski