What is Courage? Allowing Our Cowardly Lion to Look Fear in the Face


“What makes a King out of a slave? Courage. What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage. What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage. What makes the Sphinx the 7th Wonder? Courage. What makes the dawn come up like THUNDER?! Courage. What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the “ape” in ape-ricot? Whatta they got that I ain’t got? (Dorothy & Friends: Courage!) You can say that again.” The Cowardly Lion, The Wizard of Oz

For one hour last Saturday afternoon, I witnessed immense courage – courage I doubt I could muster if my hair was on fire.

It was the Winter Recital of the Olive Tree Music School and eighteen music students took the stage. The stage fright was palpable. Students nervously paced the halls and a few had to be literally pushed onto the stage.

One after one they performed, wincing with each wrong note, wringing their hands, smiling nervously, taking deep breaths. One violinist started her piece of music three times before she got traction. Another young woman sang publicly for the first time, looking so terrified I ached for her.

And yet, despite their fear, each and every one of them did what they came to do.

There aren’t many of us who can learn a new skill or reinvent ourselves without facing fear. The charm of the Cowardly Lion is how he wears his fear on his sleeve, all the while performing brave acts in defense of his friends. What he doesn’t realize is that, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” Mark Twain

This was my son’s third recital, but that didn’t make it any easier to get up and play Blackbird before a packed room. Of course, he did a marvelous job with not a note out of place (that’s what I thought, but he knew better.) As I heard the Beatles’ words in my head (I would actually faint if I had to sing in public) I realized how appropriate they were:

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise

This is your moment. If you want something, you can do it even though it’s scary. Taking that first step with fear of failure and hope of success is courage. With each step forward, “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

It’s the music sung in the dead of night that lifts us the highest.

Survival > Existence,


Image courtesy of Insomnia Cured Here
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