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I tend to think of the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz when I see this word. It is all he wanted. He thought he could rule the jungle but lacked the nerve. He thought he didn't have that inner strength to face the fears around him.
Fear. I have seen this word as an acronym. F.E.A.R. False Evidence Against Reality.
Basically, what scenario you think might happen, probably won't. Let me give you a personal example. I've joked in other blogs about my fear of talking to pretty girls. I can't do it because my attraction to them turns my brain to mush. And getting up the nerve to ask them out on a date? Fuhgedaboutit!
So what my mind does is try to man up, psych up, gather the courage to take the chance. But the pessimistic side throws all these scenarios into the mix. She'll laugh. She'll say no and laugh. Her friends who are around will whisper and laugh. What will I say and do if she says no?
Usually, when the moment comes, there is a completely different reality. Sometimes, she's not there to ask in the first place and I've forever lost my chance. Sometimes I discovered a previously unknown boyfriend. And sometimes-okay, most times-I just can't do it and chicken out.
The point is, the reality is different (not necessarily better, just different) than my fears.
This is my main area where fear reigns and courage takes a hike. Most other situations such job interviews or eating a strange new food or venturing off onto a possibly precarious road, I have no problem. Yes, I've come out of the interview knowing I wouldn't get hired and I've become sick from the exotic food and I've called for a tow truck when my car gets stuck on that road. But I wasn't scared off.
You've heard that courage is doing what's necessary or right even when you're scared. Heroes aren't fearless. The fearless are the reckless because they don't take time to acknowledge potential or real danger to themselves or others.
In my taekwondo class, I relate courage and fear to the rank advancement testings. The students are nervous about failing. I tell them that they're nervous because they care; because what they're doing is important to them. If it didn't mean anything, then they wouldn't care if they failed. I urge them to use that nervous energy to their advantage, to turn the nervousness into power and excitement and attitude. Will they make mistakes? Possibly. That's okay because as an instructor, I've seen what they've done throughout the previous weeks. I know what they can do. So unless they completely mess up, I forgive some of the minor issues and work to improve them the next time around.
The Cowardly Lion was terrified to go into the castle after the witch's broom but he did so anyway, not realizing he was exhibiting courage. He faced his fears. He used that nervous energy to drive him forward to accomplish his task.
Too bad I can't use that nervous energy as a positive when facing that beautiful woman I'd like to date. Sigh!