Early in high school, I believed myself a coward. Cultured stories tell us that heroes are born. Superman, Hercules, and Paul Bunyan were all born to be great and had grandeur from the beginning. I believed this for a time; there was simply nothing I could do. So what makes a man stronger than the rest?
One cannot speak of bravery and avoid speaking of fear. Fear is not antonymous with bravery however. If one lacked fear for instance, you could not say that he had bravery. Bravery is an action in the face of fear. A coward is faced with fear and makes the easy decision. The brave man is confronted with fear and makes the right decision. So in order to be considered brave a situation that produces fear must arise and a challenge met with righteous action.
Moving from a self considered coward to one’s own hero is a difficult task. One could proclaim victory over fear without having really done anything. I think this is the way most people live. Aesop’s fable, the hunter and the Woodsman deals with this topic where a hunter stalks a lion, but prefers to look for tracks rather than actually face the lion. Bravery is in action not intentions.
I began by overcoming small victories that went unnoticed by all but myself. It started with a Kung Fu class. I was afraid of being hit and realized I needed to conquer it. I began learning martial arts and dealt with my fears learning that being hit is not the worst thing. Ultimately, I realized I loved the thrill of combat. It was my first fear I purposely tackled. I dealt with a fear of rejection by dating and a fear of heights by indoor rock climbing. Overcoming fears is a practice and a way of life. You take control once fear is no longer controlling you.
This is where bravery has a chance. A well prepared fearless mind is one that is prepared for brave acts. Bravery is not foolhardy though. There are different types of bravery. A man who is ready to fight for his family and die if necessary is one type of bravery. Another type of bravery is a man who swallows his pride and serves a boss that he does not respect for the betterment of his wife and children. It is a decision making process in the face of fear and for the purpose of righteous action is one where heroes are revealed.
Aesop has a lesser known fable, the fawn and her mother, where the ultimate teaching point is that it is foolish to expect bravery from a coward. Although full of wisdom, I will have to say that this story was most incorrect. We were not born to be brave. Bravery is the outcome of a decision we make everyday to act righteously in the face of fear. Bravery is not the absence of fear, but what great acts were are capable of in spite of them. Become your own hero.