Courage is a Given


By Michaelene Ruhl, PsyD

Ever since I watched the “Wizard of Oz” and saw the cowardly lion, I have been amazed and curious about courage. It is an essential key to moving forward in life, to healing. Change and growth sprout from courage and without courage we are stuck. To help understand courage a bit more, let’s explore courage as an existential given.

We all experience existential givens. They are willingness, freedom, anxiety, death, isolation, responsibility, meaning, courage, and choice. Yet, not much is written about courage and with each one, there is courage needed in some form or another. And like the cowardly lion and these givens, courage is there inside of us without a doubt and we have to tap into it. How do we do this? And what about our fears?

Like courage, fear exists within each given as well. And what about fear? The thing about fear is that it can be our cue to tap into and engage with our courage. Using fear and the givens are how personal growth and healing come to be. Let’s explore the rest of the givens listed above.

Willingness is motivation, a reason to begin something. Out of our will comes challenges and obstacles. At this point, we have the freedom to choose our journeys. We have the empowerment to begin. We have the motivation to turn challenges into opportunities of growth and to do the hard work. We have the potential to change our beliefs about ourselves, which can feel like a death. And we have the strength to move forward.

Death could be seen as the most terrifying given. To some people, it is the end and expected. Choosing how we view the inevitability of death (spiritually and physically) takes courage. It takes courage to learn about it and accept that we are all going to die. It then takes the courage to choose how we will live. And this brings us freedom.

Freedom can be scary in that it gives us the ability to make any choice or no choice. It takes courage to make sense of freedom and to take advantage of it without going too far. One must remember consequences when enacting freedom. Are you ready to embrace freedom? Not everyone is and some prefer isolation.

If we are in such isolation, it takes courage to step out into the world. It takes courage to feel those feelings of isolation and aloneness. It takes courage to realize we are not the only ones with challenges. Isolation is a way to hide, a way to dwell. It can also be a chance to incubate or integrate. It can be the beginning of self-awareness, a kick-start to courage or it can be debilitating. It is our choice.

As we know, with choices come responsibilities and this takes courage. We are responsible for our choices, our actions. Choosing to celebrate who we are and our truths take great courage at times. When we use our courage to admit to what we have done or not done, to make amends, we are acting in courage and growth. When we decide to ask for support, we engage with courage and take responsibility for our own healing.

Making such choices may bring about anxiety, especially if we are not sure of the outcome. It takes courage to step into the unknown and through the fear and anxiety. And what is the answer to tolerating this anxiety? Choosing courage, the courage to be.

Choosing to be courageous in all these ways and more fuels the meaning in our lives. This fuel gives us hope, a reason to live, a reason to continue being courageous. When we run up against obstacles in life, it is courage that helps us push them out of the way. Courage is what has us bust through fear. Courage is the catalyst for change and growth. Courage is a choice.

Once we realize we have been choosing courage all along, we empower ourselves to keep healing. We inspire others and are inspired by courage no matter the degree, and we honor our quest for growth in the process.

One of the ways to practice such courage is via Family & Systemic Constellations. It allows us to heal through connecting with ourselves, each other, and our ancestors. And we now know that connection fosters courage and courage fosters healing. May courage always be in your heart and may that courage help drive your healing always.

Dr. Ruhl earned her degree from the Michigan School of Psychology in Humanistic & Clinical Psychology. She works with adults in the areas of anxiety, grief, team building, and the LGBTQIA+ community. She’s a Reiki III practitioner and facilitator of Family Constellations. Visit:, or email:


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