On Wonder Woman, Courage, and Your Psychological Health!

I just found this CS Lewis quote:

 “Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.”

And this one, from one of his other books:

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”

Look, for a second at the definition of courage, it takes us to its very root and origin:

cour·age

ˈkərij/

noun: courage

the ability to do something that frightens one.

“she called on all her courage to face the ordeal”

strength in the face of pain or grief.

“he fought his illness with great courage”

Origin

Middle English (denoting the heart, as the seat of feelings): from Old French corage, from Latin cor ‘heart.’

——

What I learned in Montreal, at my internship almost 20 years ago (!) was that courage had to do with “en-heartening”– infusing heart/courage into someone is to encourage — and we usually get this from our fathers (for whatever reason…I’m sure we get it from our mothers as well!).

For some reason, from my experience in childhood or my personality, I always thought it was my job to encourage people– I literally became a cheerleader & probably blamed myself for not encouraging enough if our team lost! 

But you see, the important part is “strength in the face of grief or pain”– it’s not that you are fearless, it’s that you choose to do what is noble, what is true, what is right–what is most right at that very moment. (This requires wisdom, discernment, mindfulness, and acting from that still place within, if we can!) 

Courage, when mixed with true humility– makes it so you are able to see your own failings and have the heart to stand back up again, ask for/accept forgiveness and have “another go”…

We all have dis-ordered tendencies. We all fall flat on our faces…this chosen path of courage, if you choose it, is about having tenacity, perseverance– to search for/take hold of the courage available in order to press on.  

Ask God–the universe, however you understand the world at this moment. (Of course I hear my priest in the back of my mind reminding us to always be ready, strengthening ourselves by reading holy scriptures and other holy writings, praying at day’s beginning and end, and being mindful/present/contemplate/meditate…).  

It’s funny I put that in parenthesis … I think I used to think that those were just words a priest “had” to say — but I watch my young son run and train in his soccer practices and he asks me:

“Mommy, I just want to be a goalie, why do I have to run?”

And because I’m so often contemplating (opening my mind to quiet inspiration)– it just “struck” me — you run and do push-ups and al this conditioning so that you are ready for anything. If they never get the ball down to your side of the field — it is enough that you are ready, alert, watchful –that is your duty, your job.

That is ours. I recall what Mother Teresa said: “we are all called to be saints…”.

This past month seemed to have so many deaths– in the media and parents of friends who are dear to me.  

Besides being a psychologist, if I was not “grounded” and practiced in being honest and sincere about my own pain, doubts, questions etc –before God– then there is no way I would have the courage to enter into their grief with them.  

It’s easy to say something trite and tell them to just smile and move on… it doesn’t meet them where they are though.

I know what it is to be lost in discouragement –and to compulsively try to run from that…I’m not talking about faking ourselves out of it, but that doesn’t mean we are to totally identify with some old discouraging nature or part of ourselves.  

What am I trying to say and what does it have to do with Wonder Woman ?!  

If you see a clip from the new Wonder Woman movie or see the whole thing, you see a woman (of course made from clay + Zeus!) –who trained all the time on Paradise Island– even though it had been more than 20 years since anyone could even get to the island they lived on. It was a hidden island yet these Amazon women were “all trained up”! They displayed this heroic courage and general “bad-ass-ness” that I think we are all looking for.  

When we hear stories of true heroes like David killing the giant Goliath with a sling shot– some people think he just showed up and “did that” — but he was a shepherd and he had experience facing the danger of a bear and a lion trying to take his sheep. When everything is so “convenient” and “disposable” in our society these days, I could totally see myself just saying “that’s ok, I’ll just buy some new sheep next time my neighbor’s have some new baby lambs…”

But he protected the sheep that were his to look over. It was said he had a heart after God’s heart. He had built, by the graces given to him by God and also by “practice” using those graces– a true faith and courage where Goliath’s size didn’t even phase him. He had an understanding that there was a true Creator God and this giant was mocking him. It wasn’t an ego thing, he was just doing the valiant thing that he already knew to do, but on a bigger scale.

How safe and at peace would we all feel if we knew our neighbor was well practiced at taking the higher path, the most courageous and true path?! As Gandhi said “we must be the change we wish to see in this world…” 

I just read two nights ago about how the Coptic Christians in Egypt were taken off the bus by ISIS and were asked one by one to deny their faith, even the children. Not one did, though they were being violently killed/shot. I pray God would give us the courage we needed to be true in such a moment– I think now is practice, daily practice of the virtues and of courage, in whatever small or giant ways we are called on to live in that place.

Much love to you, you are not alone.

Sincerely,

Dr Cheryl

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