This original drawing is available for purchase here and a print of the drawing is available here.

courage |ˈkərij; ˈkə-rij| – First known use was in the 14th century


  • 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.

Faux Fighting

When I was in Elementary school I was regularly challenged (or did the challenging myself) to a fight with one of the Aprahamian brothers. We would taunt each other over girls (usually a girl named Patty, who was very cute) and decide to meet after school at the baseball field across the street to fight. I didn’t take any courage to do this because we all knew we weren’t really going to meet and fight. We just liked pretending we were going to.

I wheedled my way out of fights all through my school years (as did almost every other boy I knew) by using humor and bravado. But it didn’t include courage. I only got in one physical fight and that consisted of a slap (yep, a slap, not a punch) I gave Rusty. Right after that Rusty and I became great friends and we were part of each other’s gang of buddies for the remaining years of High School.  I didn’t learn a lot about courage from all these non-existent fights.

Real Fighting

I first learned courage from living at home. Both my mother and father were heavy drinkers. With the drinking came some serious arguments. And with those arguments came me having to decide how much to intervene. My father wasn’t physically abusive but he was dominating in voice and anger and that was enough. I had to muster up all the courage I could at times to go downstairs and try to stop the fighting. I didn’t always decide to do that, sometimes I would put my headphones on and ignore it as best I could, hoping it would just go away. But I had a much younger sister at home and if she was downstairs, or wherever the arguing was, I would try to be there as well, if nothing else to get her back up stairs to her room. And sometimes it would just be too much and I would let out my anger and frustration at them both. That took courage. My older sister was learning courage at this same time, as she was pretty much going through the same thing I was.

Building Courage

There were plenty of other instances in my life where courage was required for me to move forward in life (and in at least one case survive at all). The key here is that courage is never learned from another person. It can be witnessed and admired yes, but one’s own courage is not built by that. It’s built by one’s own experiences.  Building courage is like building muscle.  Chances are you are not going to be able to lift your own body weight the first time you lift weights. But if you start light and are consistent, before you know it you will be able to lift that weight.  Courage is a muscle.

The same is true with courage. The person who has never built any courage at all is not likely to have the courage to face something extreme.  But if, as you live your life, you take small chances in activities, statements, relationships, and adventure, then chances are you will be able to face the next thing with more courage.

So here is my challenge to you: No matter what level of courage you now have, take a small step that builds on it. Maybe it’s about a diet plan, perhaps it’s about traveling somewhere, or it could be about a physical activity you want to try. Take that small courageous step towards that new goal. You can do it. And when you do it, it will lead you to something great.

Drawing and commentary © 2017 Marty Coleman |

“Without courage we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency.” – Maya Angelou, 1928-2014, American writer.


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