Courage to use your Strength to attend to your Fear


Quick summary: I am offering a discussion on the difference between Strength and Courage. My hope is that by helping people to see what courage is… they may be more likely to use that courage to express the potential of their authentic self. Courage is willingly engaging yourself in something that you view as very difficult… something that requires emotional strength… something that on the surface would seem to be easier to avoid, repress, or defend against (to rigidly close your mind too). It takes strength to be courageous and is takes strength to suppress your courage. Define what is ‘courageous’ for yourself… your answer may shed light on what you could do to bring your self into balance.

It takes Courage to Change… it takes courage to grow towards your potential… it takes courage to offer attention and acceptance to your fear.

It takes Strength to be Courageous… But not all act of Strength require Courage.

  • I find this to be a social misconception held by many people.
  • Often society defines what a courageous act is without taking into consideration the particulars of the individual who is involved in the act.
  • A Courageous act differs from person to person.


I see acts of courage by men, women, boys and girls in my therapy office everyday…

  • My clients display courage every time they allow them selves to willingly experience the anxiety which is inherent in change
  • They display their courage every time that they allow themselves to express an emotion or a belief that had previously felt too difficult to relay.
  • They display Courage every time they are able to call on their strength to let their authentic self present itself without defensiveness.
  • They display courage every time they willingly attend to a memory or an emotional reaction that would have been ‘easier’ to avoid.
  • They Display courage every time they overcome their fear and engage in actions which will lead to a desired positive change.


On the surface it seems easier to…

  • To be defensive rather than hearing how you might better meet the needs of a loved one.
  • To rigidly hold onto the beliefs you already carry as opposed to opening yourself up to different ideas.
  • To distract yourself with activity after activity or plan after plan or thought after thought as opposed to attending to a difficult emotion that you carry.
  • To avoid changes or to avoid thinking about changes that you know that you honestly need for yourself and for your loved ones.
  • To engage in procrastination as opposed to initiating behaviors or activities that are both difficult and necessary.


What is Courage? We often give definitions and examples of courage which suggest that ‘being courageous” is involving your self in an act which is universally believed to take courage.

I am suggesting that courage is something that is relevant to a specific person… what takes courage for one person does not necessarily take courage for another person.

There are no actions which are inherently courageous… Instead a courageous act involves a person’s ability to call upon their strength to overcome their fear and to involve themselves in something that they subjectively view as almost “too difficult”.

Society defines certain tasks as requiring more courage than another task… In my experience this belief is a misconception. An action that takes an extraordinary amount of courage for one person might be labeled as a rather benign action for another person.

The distinction that I am trying to suggest – there are some tasks that are quantifiably physically difficult such as lifting a rock that is twice your body weight… but does it take courage to lift a rock twice your body weight? I am suggesting that the answer will vary person to person based on their beliefs about the activity.

What is the point? How can this philosophical suggestion be of any benefit?

Courage is a necessary component of human growth…

  • I often see that people lack the courage that they need in their life because they confuse courage with strength.


People Suppress parts of them selves and keep their authentic self hidden under the misguided notion that it is courageous to do so…

  • Perhaps it takes strength to submit an important part of your self… I am suggesting that it takes courage to express this inhibited part of your self.


Courage is often allowing yourself to be honest, authentic, and to follow your intuition when social norms suggest that you engage in an opposing behavior, belief system, or form of emotional expression.


Here are some examples of social norms that I have witnessed people using courage to overcome… (I am suggesting that conforming to these norms is not helpful for most people)

  • Crying is a sign of weakness
  • You should put your career in front of everything
  • you must view one political party as correct or good and all other parties as incorrect or bad
  • you should not admit when you are wrong
  • It is appropriate to express anger and inappropriate to express sadness
  • It takes strength to control others
  • Acts which involve a risk of physical damage always require courage… acts of nurturance do not require courage.


Fighting might require an immense amount of courage from one person and relatively no courage from another person…


Nurturing and attaching to someone who needs you might require an immense amount of courage from one person and relatively no courage from another person.


Allowing emotions to be expressed freely might require an immense amount of courage from one person and relatively no courage from another person…


Maintaining composure and holding an emotional reaction in the moment might require an immense amount of courage from one person and relatively no courage from another person…


We are all innately courageous and we all have strength in our own ways… by separating the difference between strength and courage I am hoping that people will use their strength to engage in a courageous action instead of using their strength to avoid a courageous action.


It takes strength to change


It takes strength to stay the same


The choice is yours…


You must define what is courageous for yourself… it is often with acts of courage that we bring ourselves into balance… that we allow the change needed for self actualization – to have your potential and your reality be the same thing.


“With courage venture forward and accept your fear so as to find the balance which has always been your potential.”


“Your authentic self is balanced and therefore good… allow your strength to allow you the courage to engage in the change which you fear.”










William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.