Courage is the Other Side of the Fear Coin

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

When I think of fear, I am always reminded of an Arabian fable of fear which runs somewhat like this:   

Once upon a time, Pestilence was spotted by a caravan going on the road to Baghdad.  

"Why are you making such haste to Baghdad?" asked the leader of the caravan.

"To take five thousand lives," replied Pestilence.

Not five, but fifty thousand people died in Baghdad not too long after that conversation.

On the way back from the city, Pestilence and the caravan met again.

"You took fifty thousand lives.  Why did you lie to me?" asked the leader of the caravan.   "I took only five thousand lives and not one more.  Fear took the rest," said the Pestilence.  

 Fear is the biggest killer. It is bigger than Pestilence, Adversity, Scourge, and Misfortune put together.  The fact is that the road from here to Baghdad is jammed, bumper to bumper, with people who have been consuming anxiety pills in an attempt to avoid feeling fear.  At my clinic, I see people who have been on anxiety pills for years and years, and over the years, their fears have gotten not better, but worse.  Why?  Because, they have  not done anything else but taken pills.  They never learned to confront their fears, understand their pain, and solve their problems.   Pills don't teach you skills, you teach those to yourself.  Find a coach, a mentor, a guide, or a therapist to help you with that, if you so require.     

 If fear doesn't kill you, at the least, it will take charge of you and totally control your life.  It does not mean that you take unnecessary risks or jump from Niagara Falls to prove to yourself and to others that you are brave.  It simply means this, "don't live your life avoiding at all costs everything that makes you uncomfortable.  Actor Glen Ford once said, if you do not do the things you fear (that are important for your success), fear will control your life."    

 A lot of times, fear is on the opposite side of desire.  When you desire something, you fear you won't get it.  You think that you will make a fool of yourself or people will laugh at you.  A lot of us, stop dreaming or making lofty goals because we are afraid we might be setting ourselves up for failure.  Oh what price, we pay to be straddled in the safety seat.  Someone said, "Fasten your safety belt, we are going nowhere."  Living safely can be dangerous, it can destroy your chances of success.  

 Fear is very important for survival.  It is not some sort kind of disgusting trait that we should be ashamed of.  The negative labels, "gutless," or "spineless," that we sometimes use to reproach ourselves or others, are totally wrong.  To be afraid is normal.  Not to be afraid at all is not only dangerous, it is abnormal.  Fear prompts us to take action and that is valuable for survival as well as our progress and success in life.

 There are times, you can deliberately use fear to motivate you to take action.  If you experience fear, it creates a desire to escape it.  Priests, pastors, shamans, and other godmen have always utilized fear.  By portraying hellfire and damnation, they promise eternal salvation and evoke the desire in the participants to seek such salvation.    

 It is a mistake to tell yourself any of the following, "I am so fearful, I can never be courageous.  I can never stand in front of people and talk to them.  I can't do this and I can't do that.  I wish I was like them.  I wish I was brave."  Nobody is born courageous but everybody is born fearful.  Mark Twain said, 'Courage is not lack of fear or absence of fear;  it is control of fear; mastery of fear." 

 Let's now look at what Oz has to say about courage:

"But how about my courage?' asks the Lion anxiously.

"You have plenty of courage.  All you really need is some confidence in yourself," replies Oz.    "Every living thing is afraid when it faces danger.  True courage is facing danger even when you are afraid, and you already have that kind of courage."

 Courage is always inside, but you have to discover it. It is the treasure that is buried underneath.  If you are having trouble finding it, dig a little deeper,.  Courage is always on the other side of the fear.  You have to walk thorough the fear to get to it.  I don't know what is in us that one morning we get up, go out, and face our fear.  Perhaps, it is a little encouragement and support from others, and a lot determination on our part that one day we say to ourselves, "enough!  I am no longer going to be afraid. "                                                  

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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 



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