In the classic movie, the Wizard of Oz (still my favorite movie of all time), there is a point about three quarters through the movie when the four friends confront the Wizard but are turned away. All four begin to lament the things they will not receive from the Wizard, and the Cowardly Lion goes on a rant about all the creatures that would demonstrate his courage were he not afraid of them. He ends his speech by listing examples of creatures that do have courage. He finishes by saying, “…what makes a muskrat guard his musk?” He concludes by asking, “what have they got that I ain’t got?” and his friends answer, in unison, “Courage.”
But the Cowardly Lion, and anyone who believes same, is mistaken. Courage is not the absence of fear. If you ask a fire fighter if he or she is afraid, before they enter a burning building, they’d admit they are. No doubt. But they go in anyway.
Reflecting upon my interview with Neva Warren and her setting the record of becoming the youngest person to hike the Appalachian Trail by herself, the thought that sticks with me is Neva’s Courage.
Again, many people have a misconception of courage. Some think courage is simply conquering a fear or a phobia. Others believe courage to be about being a ‘tough guy’ (or girl).
I’ve heard it said that courage isn’t facing fear, it’s acknowledging your fear and continuing your quest despite that fear. Brave people don’t lack fear, they have the courage to continue to battle whatever their obstacle is, despite their fear.
Neva had great courage. She knew she had a journey of more than 2,200 miles. She knew she was, physically, much smaller than all of the other hikers, which meant she couldn’t travel as far or as fast every day in order to maintain a good pace. She rolled her ankles multiple times, she fell down in the mud, she fought back against her depression (the cause for which she was hiking) and she continued to hike. She watched big, burly men with beards drop off the Trail. She cried often, but she kept going.
Whatever your next challenge or obstacle is, it’s okay if you’re afraid. Just don’t let your fear stop you.
Don’t Say, “I Can’t”