“You’re nothing but a great big coward,” Dorothy said sternly to the cowardly lion when she first met him in the woods with the Scarecrow and the Tin Man.
“You’re right. I am a coward. I haven’t any courage at all,” responded the lion with tears running down his cheeks and his voice trembling.
When the Cowardly Lion is finally introduced to the Wizard he learns that he is the victim of disorganised thinking. So much of our fear is a result of our own disorganised or negative thinking. We replay negative moments and feelings from our past that can keep us in a cowardly state and prevent us from moving forwards. These old messages keep us from making decisions that are uncomfortable or prevent us from simply standing up for ourselves.
Bravery is the ability to confront danger, even pain, in the face of pressure without the feeling of fear. Courage however is the ability to take on difficulties and pain, despite the fear. Most likely, the people who succeed in new situations or stand up for themselves are, or were, just as scared as anybody else. The difference is, they took action. They did not let their fear stop them. They acted in spite of their fear. Fear is stagnant. Courage is action.
Courage is all about the heart. The spineless lion should really have asked for the same thing as the Tin Man – a heart. The root of the word courage is “cor” which is the Latin word for heart. In its original form the word meant to “speak one’s mind while telling all one’s heart.”
Courage comes from within. Any external symbol of courage, such as a medal in the lion’s case, will really do nothing to help develop the inner strength needed to be more courageous. Courage requires us to look deep within our soul, to be uncomfortable, and to make a decision with our hearts. Ultimately, it comes down to our core, our heart, and a willingness to face our fears.
Think of somebody who you admire for their courage. It is likely they will show tremendous positivity through the gravest of times. They will remain buoyant and even make light of the hardest news, “take it on the chin” and look for the route through. You will see them dig really deep, drawing upon their experiences in order to muster up the strength, the courage, to face the challenge, to hit it head on. They will be focused and determined to succeed. Sure, they will have times when they doubt their courage and let their guard down temporarily but the force of their courage will overpower this.
Children will never know how strong and courageous they can be, or already are, without learning it for themselves. Courage and believing in ourselves requires us to rearrange our disorganised thinking. They require us to examine our core and our heart and not look for something from the outside to change us. Courage requires us to act. Others can encourage us but no one can help us move from fear to courage. We must do that ourselves. That is a heart decision.
So how do we teach children to be courageous? How do we encourage them to ignore the negative experiences which can be used to kill courage? What makes children turn to their hearts to make difficult decisions and take that first step of action towards something quite uncomfortable?
The answer relates to the environment. We need to create a safe environment where children understand that failure is part of the learning process. That certainly helps in terms of their studies. More broadly, developing courage in children to take action is achieved by building confidence and self-esteem, by providing the right support at the right time. When children are faced with huge challenges, having somebody on their shoulder who does not necessarily tell the child what to do but makes them believe in themselves is the key. Children need to learn to believe in themselves and by being explicit about successes following courage is vital.
At Yateley Manor we will continue to provide new experiences for the children. We will encourage, support and celebrate success when courage has been shown. Above all, we will be on the shoulders of the children to help them make those courageous decisions.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” (Winston Churchill)