What is courage? As a child I thought it was not being afraid of things: the dark, snakes, speaking in public, dentist visits, heights. I knew I wasn’t very brave, but some of my friends were. Were they born with extra courage? Did they develop that somehow?
Google’s dictionary defines courage this way: “the ability to do something that frightens one.” I was somewhat surprised at the definition. Even as an adult, I think of courage or bravery as the absence of fear. But, after looking in multiple dictionaries, I found that courage is not defined as the absence of fear. Courage is the ability or willingness to tackle fear!
If courage is an ability rather than an innate characteristic, then I believe courage can be developed. Do I have courage? My first thought is “no.” I quake at attempts to fire a gun. My knees go wobbly when I’m in high places. I travel with a nightlight for hotel rooms. But, perhaps I just haven’t been willing to develop my courage in those particular areas. I used to be afraid to speak in public, but now I do that regularly. Being a teacher for over two decades probably lessened my anxiety over that. I used to be afraid of elevators, but that particular fear was pretty much eliminated when I got a job on the 19th floor of a building.
So, why have I chosen to face some fears but not others? I have no desire to face my fear of the dark. I sleep with a nightlight at home, and I can’t recall the last time I was anywhere that was in complete darkness. I suppose I need to face my fear of going to the dentist. I think I have somewhat faced that as evidenced by my regular check-ups, although my clammy hands throughout a teeth cleaning probably belie that.
I guess you could say life circumstances have dictated my courage development. I can’t not go to the dentist because I have a greater fear of losing my teeth. I love my job, so riding an elevator to the top of a very tall building means keeping that job.
So, if you need someone to welcome a crowd, then I’m your courageous girl. But, until life circumstances require me to extinguish my nightlight, I will continue to be a wimp about the dark. And I’m okay with that.
Read a poem about courage here.