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I learned about courage at an early age when my dad taught us how to fight. He said that our best weapons in a fight were our legs. 
We should run.

He said it’s very hard to get hurt if you’re actively running away from a fight. He said the worst that could happen is your opponent might graze a couple punches off your back. My brothers and I were legendary cowards.

We were absolutely forbidden to fight other kids. It was okay to pummel each other, but nobody outside the family. So I’ve lived 55 years having never been in a fistfight.

Mostly, it was fear that kept me from fighting. Fear that my parents would find out and I’d get into trouble. Fear that I’d get my butt kicked or worse, fear that I’d look like the aggressor and get blamed. So I just took the punches, and there weren’t that many since I was a funny kid who could joke his way out of most potentially violent situations.

Still, I don’t think anyone would have looked at me and thought about the word, “courage.” It wasn’t until I had my own children that I began thinking about the relationship between fear and courage. Specifically, it came from watching The Wizard of Oz with the kids over and over and over again.

I think you can tell a lot about a person by finding out what character they identify with most in that movie. Although I wish I was the Scarecrow or maybe the Mayor of the Munchkin City…in the County of the Land of Oz…the truth is I’ve been more like the Cowardly Lion in my life. I didn’t do a lot of things because of fear.

The Cowardly Lion puts up a good front, or so he thinks. But soon, after a weak burst of bravado, he’s exposed for what he thinks he is: a fear-ridden coward who lacks “da noyve” to be courageous.

Courage is only measured by the amount of fear it displaces.

Courage is only measured by the amount of fear it displaces.

What he doesn’t realize is that fear is not the opposite of courage. Fear is the “precursor” to courage. In fact, courage is only measured by the amount of fear it displaces. Courage without fear is arrogance, or possibly hubris.

The caterpillar transforms into the butterfly. Fear transforms into courage. It makes me think of the soldier in combat who, in the heat of battle, leaps out of his foxhole and single-handedly wipes out the enemy, takes the hill and plants the flag. “Man, that was courageous,” we think. But what we don’t consider is what happened moments before the soldier’s sudden rush of glory, when he was crouched low in the foxhole, probably trembling and terrified for his life. And then, in one brilliant, shining moment, with the enemy bearing down on him, the transformation takes place. In an instant, the true depth of his fear is miraculously displaced by a blast of courage.

The same thing happens to the Cowardly Lion in the scene when he, Tin Man and Scarecrow are crouching outside the castle watching the soldiers marching. The fearful Lion asks with a quiver in his voice, “We’re going to get Dorothy…in there??” We get to watch his fear transform to courage.

“All right, I’ll go in there for Dorothy,” he proclaims. “Wicked Witch or no Wicked Witch, guards or no guards, I’ll tear ‘em apart. I may not come out alive, but I’m going in there!”

So what does all this have to do with outpatient wound care at Encompass HealthCare & Wound Medicine? Today, I look at our wound care patients, especially the new patients who come in for their first evaluation appointment, and I see courage.

They are scared. Their diabetic foot ulcer or cellulitis is getting worse and they fear they will lose a foot or a leg. But then they transform that fear into courage, get in a car and come to us.

Courage is a cool thing to see. It’s one of the wonderful intangibles that healthcare workers get to experience firsthand on a daily basis.

Invariably, when patients’ treatments are finished and their wounds are deemed fully healed, they thank us. And then, we thank them back, not just for giving us a reason to do what we do, but also for letting us watch them be courageous.

Like the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.




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