I can hear the beloved Cowardly Lion bravely spitting out this declaration to his travelling companions, Dorothy, Scarecrow and the Tinman, who have been pummeling him with questions about his bravery. Oh to be filled with such confidence!
If you don’t have it memorized (as I have since I was a young girl) it goes like this:
Your Majesty, If you were King, you wouldn’t be afraid of anything?
Not nobody, not nohow!
Not even a rhinoceros?
How about a hippopotamus?
Why, I’d trash him from top to bottomamus!
Supposin’ you met an elephant?
I’d wrap him up in cellophant!
What if it were a brontosaurus?
I’d show him who was King of the Forest!
As I reflect on the Cowardly Lions bravado I can’t help but admit that I am often spitting out the very same rhetoric. Mostly, within the quiet, shaded parts of my mind. Hoping that repeating might just be believing. I romanticize the idea of being courageous, and what that might look like in my own life. I equate being courageous with being bold, standing up to bullies, and living with a wholehearted abandon. However, this picture couldn’t be further from my present reality. Most of the time, I don’t feel courageous; I’d much rather stow away, curl up on my couch and crochet myself into a stupor!
So what can I (we) learn from the Cowardly Lion? Do we learn that in order to bear the title ‘Courageous’ we have to laugh in the face of danger, confront and eventually kill or defeat the metaphorical wicked witches in our lives? No! The message is quite the opposite. We see a character that is anxiety ridden, neurotic, and at best, mediocre under stress. However, the single one thing that he manages to do successfully, in the face of many failures, is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. There are many times when he wants to quit. Even times when his friends have to stop him from running the other direction by a quick pull of the tail, a masterful redirection or some intense encouragement along the way. In the face of his fear he accomplishes the one task that he can CHOOSE to engage in – to keep going forward INSPITE of his fear.
The longer I live, and the longer I parent, this is the one skill that I pray my children (and myself) can acquire: the ability to continue on a path regardless of the challenges, discouragement or pain. We have so many proverbial phrases that embody this idea:
Keep your eye on the prize.
Run the race set before you.
Don’t cry over spilt milk.
If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.
It is so much easier said than done. I want so badly to have perfected this skill; to perfectly embrace the ever blowing wind of failure, but more often than not, it knocks me right down.
Recently, my son had to confront a foe that, in his eleven years, still remained undefeated. The many attempts and proceeding failures at acquiring a specific life skill had rendered him unmotivated and discouraged. He was aloof, at best, and obstinate at his worst, refusing to admit there was any value in him learning this skill. I have to admit, there were MANY arguments, and many times where I doubted my own choice to push him into this area of defeat, where he had previously been so discouraged. What if he doesn’t learn, and continues to feel inadequate, and frustrated? Regardless of my doubts, I pressed on, and encouraged him through his frustration, knowing that this was just the first of MANY stumbling blocks, and failures that we would have to walk through with him in his life. I assured him, that if he, very slowly, moved one foot in front of the other, choosing to try instead of giving up, choosing the difficult instead of the familiar, then one day, whether it be soon or far in his future, he would succeed. Even if he didn’t enjoy the skill once acquired, he could still be proud that he didn’t let the fear of failure or pain paralyze him.
What did he decide to do in the face of his fear (and his mother’s plea)? He pressed on; through his frustration, dragging his feet, unimpressed with my ‘pep talks’ and encouragement. He proceeded, slowly, cautiously, even negatively; but he proceeded! And I have never been more proud than seeing him choose discomfort and the unfamiliar in search of something better. ‘THIS is REAL courage’ I thought to myself. He was afraid, surly, and frustrated, but chose to try anyway.
I realized (and had to admit to myself while watching him), that the picture unfolding in front of me was similar to the journey I have been on the last two years. I have been frustrated, hurt, resistant, angry, resentful, but also courageous. Inspite of my self-depreciation and exasperation with my struggles there is one thing that I have continued to do; I have slowly, often at a snails pace, continued to put one foot in front of the other. This, I now realize, takes courage. It takes courage to move forward without knowing where one’s heading. It takes courage to fight for a moment of sunshine when grey storm clouds press in around you. It takes courage to laugh, when lasting joy seems uncertain. It takes courage to choose another day when you just don’t feel like it. And let’s face it, we ALL have those days! As one author so eloquently puts it:
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” – Mary Anne Radmacher
Becoming Ordinary: Day 316