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Ever since I was young, the character in a film with whom I most strongly related would surely be 'the cowardly lion', from The Wizard of Oz. This was not because I was entertained by his cowardliness, as his name would make you think, but because I really liked his relentless quest for courage. When speaking of courage, the cowardly lion compares it's magnitude to these sentiments: “what makes a king out of a slave?...what makes the flag on the mast wave?...what makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk?” the answer to all of those questions, is of course, courage. There are, however, many different elements that make up the word, making it difficult to accurately capture the true meaning in a single sentence. It's not simply being momentarily brave and jumping from a cliff, or latching on to a group of vagabonds on a hunt for wizards and adventure. While the definition states that 'courage is the ability to do something that frightens one', in this essay I'd like to explore the different dimensions of the word, involving not only the conquering of courageous, physical feats, but also by acknowledging where courage comes from and how, once displayed, it can change your life on many different levels. In modern culture, displaying courage often becomes defined by the danger one displays through death-defying physical feats. An example of this would be taking a ride on a rollercoaster that you have always too scared to ride. When the line comes to an end and it's your turn to jump on, you can either face your fear of heights and get on the ride, or turn around and walk down the stairs with your tail between your legs, knowing that you have wasted the last two hours of your life. Neither of these reactions to the coaster are necessarily wrong, however as the definition states, having courage relies on your personal ability to conquer your fears, so the courageous choice would be to buckle up and endure the twists and turns. Another example of physically courageous acts can be found in the work of the world famous daredevil Evel Knievel. While many of Knievel's acts seemed fueled by blind insanity and an almost certain death wish, his tricks were adored by thousands because of his own self-awareness and the courage that lit him up from the inside. During his performing days, Evel Knievel skipped over rivers as if they were puddles and soared over big rigs as if they were toy cars, seemingly without a care in the world. It is documented, however, that the trickster routinely prayed before each jump, as a way to cope with his fear. Knievel suffered numerous accidents, however in multiple acts of courage and bravery, the great daredevil was always able to dig deep within himself and use his fears to fuel whatever challenge may lay ahead. But having courage is not completely dependent on one's physical ability endure a coaster's jerks and twists, jump over canyons or fight flying monkeys. The necessary, but unspoken, essence of the word lies in the realization that courage exists in all of us and there are different causes for each time it is provoked. Every day we are surrounded by the courageous acts of others and the freedoms we take for granted would not exist had the pioneers of our past not been willing to exercise their courage by standing up for what they believe in. One of my favorite examples of being humbly courageous can be found in the story of Rosa Parks. The world around her was bubbling with hatred and discrimination, which finally caused the fire inside of her to spark to life. By refusing to move out of her seat for a white person, Parks executed one of the simplest protests and most incredible acts of courage to date, helping further equal rights and shape the world in which we live today. The cause for that particular act of courage was fueled by discrimination and years of injustice. When it finally became too much, Parks found the courage in her gut and stood her ground. The same can be said for Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who's passion for womens rights fueled their courage and helped pave the road towards equality between the sexes. Courage is something that comes forth when you need it the most. It is an unintentional slip into bravery that happens when you look fear in the eye and choose to finally fight back. The world we enjoy each day was born from the courage of others I am so thankful to finally realize how much meaning lays in one single word. I think that courage is the food that makes us grow as human beings, and discovering where you stand by finding what you fear is the idea that attracts me most to the word. Having both the physical and the internal concepts of the courage in mind, I'd like to further the explanation of the word by narrating a personal experience which made me see the limits of my own courage, or possible lack thereof. As I have earlier described, an important part of understanding courage is being aware of your actions when presented with your fears. It is that unexpected, yet familiar spark that suddenly begins to tick inside of you, making you act out courageously because the body can no longer harbor the emotion alone. My story of courage involves a strict religious upbringing and a dear friend coming to terms with their sexuality. I was raised a devout catholic, attending catechism every Wednesday and bible study every Sunday before Mass. As I got older, I eventually started questioning some of the catholic traditions, but didn't tell anyone so I wouldnt make my mom mad, whom I've always been very close with. A few months ago a good friend of mine, also raised catholic, came out as a homosexual, which is an idea completely shunned by the catholic faith. It was a truly courageous gesture for my friend to make this revelation to our friends, family and the church, in spite of the inevitable judgement from the congregation. I was there as a witness when they told the family, and to watch the the nervous-ness roll over my friends body was to see a person standing on the edge of a cliff and jumping head first into an ocean of their greatest fears. There was no way to tell how the information would be received, and it was incredibly moving to witness such an act of courage, all for a result unknown. The events of that day inspired me to step outside of my own comfort zone and finally confront the fears that have kept me from living my life to it's fullest. I have learned that courage is not something that can be forced. It shows up when it is time to confront your fears, when you look face to face at the thing that taunts you the most, beit roller coaster, canyon or emotional cliff. Once you decide to step outside of your comfort zone and confront your fears, that is when you can skip carefree down the yellowbrick road because, just like the cowardly lion, the courage you need has been inside of you all along.

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