The Cowardly Lion from "The Wizard of Oz"

Cowardly Lion: Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the “ape” in apricot? What have they got that I ain’t got?
Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman: Courage!
Cowardly Lion: You can say that again!


[kur-ij, kuhr-]


the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.

What Kind of People Have Courage?

Exactly what kind of people have courage? In my opinion, courage is not found in a specific “kind” of person, personality, gender, or culture. Courage can be found in the heart of any individual. Facing life develops courage in our hearts. I began thinking about courage this past week. I was waiting outside a classroom as I had arrived a bit early. I have no idea what kind of class was being held in room 406, but I heard the professor say, “When you think of someone who is courageous, who comes to mind?

I couldn’t hear all the responses, but some that I did hear included:

men and women in the armed forces


law enforcement officers

and firefighters.

As I sat leaning against the wall eavesdropping on the class discussion, I thought about how I would answer that question should anyone ever ask me.

“People with disABILITIES have courage”

Part of the reason I love Fidos For Freedom so much is that the clients, trainers, and volunteers have become like family to me. There are a number of disABILITIES present in people who are “family” at this organization. People who are “differently-abled”. Some of the clients are deaf (or Deaf), some have balance problems, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic pain (from accidents or illness), CRPS, MS, and the list goes on. No matter the background or current health status of any one individual, one thing I see in the face of ALL is – COURAGE.

How can we be SO different and struggle with such a wide variety of challenges, and yet all have courage? Bill Tipton said, “Increasing your courage to take calculated risks can improve your general well-being and attitude in life. Learning to transform the negative reaction of fear of failure to a positive sensation of opportunity can enhance your chances for success. I believe people with disabilities, or perceived differences, get more opportunities to demonstrate and practice courageousness” (Global Dialogue Center, 2011)

I believe when a person takes a “calculated” risk and strives to improve their life, courage results. I have seen people work very hard to train assistance dogs. I have seen people work very hard to train to be matched with an assistance dog. Different people have different obstacles, but all push on… reaching for that goal of more independence. I’ve seen clients training who are in obvious pain. I have seen people work hard at taking risks and learning new ways of doing things so that they may safely and confidently handle a dog partner. This is courage.

How Does One Find Courage?

Jayne Leone said, “Related to the word courage are the words encourage and discourage. (In fact within the word courage is the word rage.) Think of the times we have encouraged ourselves or encouraged others. Now think of the times we have discouraged ourselves and discouraged others. There are many buzz words being used today — such as empowerment, challenged, support — used by many professionals, when in reality the operative word is courage, encourage or discourage. As we well know, many social institutions can encourage us or discourage us as disabled persons. They can help us be empowered, help us to maintain self-control, help us be self confident, help us gain courage. By discouraging us they can do the opposite” (Independent Living Institute, 1997).

I believe that courage isn’t an attribute one learns and then “ya got it“. I do believe that courage, though hard-earned and a difficult teacher, is practiced by choice on a daily basis. This is why we have “good days” and “bad days”. I think the key to having an abundant life is to have more “good days” than “bad days”, but allow “bad days” to act as a learning experience as well. Let’s face it. We are going to have bad days. Don’t you think the key is in how one RESPONDS to a bad day? Courage doesn’t disappear on bad days. Courage doesn’t guarantee success.

Sometimes? Courage is going to bed after a “bad day”, with resolve to try again tomorrow. Courage means you simply refuse to accept defeat.

The Lion now walked to the Throne Room and knocked at the door.

“Come in,” said Oz.

“I have come for my courage,” announced the Lion, entering the room.

“Very well,” answered the little man; “I will get it for you.”

He went to a cupboard and reaching up to a high shelf took down a square green bottle, the contents of which he poured into a green-gold dish, beautifully carved. Placing this before the Cowardly Lion, who sniffed at it as if he did not like it, the Wizard said:


“What is it?” asked the Lion.

“Well,” answered Oz, “if it were inside of you, it would be courage. You know, of course, that courage is always inside one; so that this really cannot be called courage until you have swallowed it. Therefore I advise you to drink it as soon as possible.”

The Lion hesitated no longer, but drank till the dish was empty.

“How do you feel now?” asked Oz.

“Full of courage,” replied the Lion, who went joyfully back to his friends to tell them of his good fortune.

Swallow Courage

Ever get caught up in wishing things were different? Do you ever wish you were simply “normal”? (Who defines what is NORMAL, anyway?) I’m at various stages of accepting who I am today. Sometimes I have a clear vision of my “new normal” and seem to understand the “new me”. At other times though? I’ll be honest – I flounder. There is a part of me that wants to “fit in” and do things like “normal” people do.

Why do I have to find batteries so that I can continue hearing when my CI “dies”?

Why do I have to stand and sit slowly?

Why do I have to remove my hearing aid at times when the ear mold leaves a sore in my ear?

Why do I have to use my hands (or Chloe) on the stairs to safely navigate “UP”?

One must “swallow” courage – to believe!

My husband reminded me the other day that even people without disABILITIES struggle with acceptance. As a psychologist, he has seen folks from all walks of life struggle with accepting the way things are TODAY. Age may have made a change in your “normal”. An accident, illness or disABILITY may have changed your “normal”. He said, ““You have differences that make you uniquely you, but that also require some assistance. Without Chloe you’d fall more and miss more. Without your implant you are deaf. You need to accept who you are without apology and stop looking to be treated normally”.

Courage ≠ Never Being Afraid

“But how about my courage?” asked the Lion anxiously.

“You have plenty of courage, I am sure,” answered Oz. “All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. True courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.”

“Perhaps I have, but I’m scared just the same,” said the Lion. “I shall really be very unhappy unless you give me the sort of courage that makes one forget he is afraid.”

You can have courage and still feel fear. The unknown can be a scary thing. When an acquired disABILITY occurs in the life of a person, there are no guarantees things will not get worse. Many have progressive symptoms. Courage does give us the ability to deal with change, however. Few are born with courage. It is a learned skill, an acquired characteristic.

The Cowardly Lion has always been a favorite of mine in “The Wizard of Oz”. I loved both the movie and the books. I smile when he uses his tail to wipe his self-pitying tears away. I grin when he “shakes” in fear of the Wicked Witch and trembles at the sight of the flying monkeys. I know the end of the story. The Cowardly Lion shows courage time and again throughout the movie, putting himself at risk for others and to achieve his own ultimate goal… a gift bestowed from the Wizard – that of courage. Unbeknownst to the Cowardly Lion, courage lay dormant in his fearful heart. He only had to exercise what was already there.

I hope that YOU believe that courage is in your heart. You may not even recognize it. If you take risks and live life “in spite of”? You have courage!

Denise Portis

© Personal Hearing Loss Journal


3 thoughts on “Courage!

  1. WOW! You really said it all. I would love to share this post with my fellow runners because courage is such a universal yet powerful word. Thanks for sharing your sentiments!

  2. I almost missed this because I didn’t see it as a post on Facebook! One of your best, Denise! Early on I got myself tangled up in a question: what’s the difference between courage and bravery? Is the first a state of mind, the second an act of mind? Can we have one without the other? Does anyone besides me really care? 🙂 I have often been called brave. I suppose. But I think those who act with courage, act bravely, are just realizing something essential: it is more self-serving to be brave than to cower. They are both very uncomfortable, but the former has the potential to deliver so much more. Thanks, Denise!

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