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And the resiliency word of the day is . . . (you'll be surprised)

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“Okay,” you might be thinking to yourself, “’Courage’ is a likely candidate for resiliency word of the day. Where’s the surprise?”

Yes, courage is very helpful whether bouncing back from a catastrophic event or facing one of life’s daily challenges. And the reason it’s helpful is because courage is about being brave and heroic. Right?

Well . . . maybe not so much. At least, that wasn’t the original definition of courage. First, let’s look at the fine print. Here’s the origin of the word from our old friend, the etymological dictionary:

c.1300, from O.Fr. corage (12c., Mod.Fr. courage) “heart, innermost feelings; temper,” from V.L. *coraticum (cf. It. coraggio, Sp. coraje), from L. cor “heart,” which remains a common metaphor for inner strength. In M.E., used broadly for “what is in one’s mind or thoughts.”

Hmmm. I don’t see “brave” or “heroic” anywhere in there. There are some other interesting ideas among all the acronyms in there, though. I think Dr. Brene Brown has the best description:

The root of the word courage is cor—the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage literally had a very different definition than it does today. Courage originally meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has actually changed, and today, courage is synonymous with being heroic or performing brave deeds.

Ah, courage is more about the heart than deeds, then. So what does this mean for us in our everyday resilient lives?

It means in order to have, as Dr. Brown would say, “ordinary courage”, we need to make sure we express our authentic selves. No hiding behind avoidance or aggression brought on by whispers of past shame. No blocking our true feelings by laughing off a painful remark or agreeing with something we know to be false.

We need ordinary courage because, when push comes to shove, we need to know and believe in the strength and gentleness of who we really are. This is the foundation from which our ability to bounce back grows.

To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart. This is the true meaning of courage.

Takeaway points: Courage isn’t always about being brave . . . it’s really about the heart. Being authentic by feeling and speaking the truth we know inside.

I know it’s sometimes hard for me to acknowledge and speak my truth. How about you?

I practice therapy in Los Altos, Ca., and I would be happy to help you find your own voice and truth. Give me a call at 650-529-9059 or email me for an appointment or a free 30-minute consultation.

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Bobbi Emel is a therapist who helps people in Los Altos, Palo Alto, Mountain View and the greater Bay Area manage their stress and develop their strengths.
She is effective in helping people dealing with anxiety, worry and grief; and also those who want to improve their effectiveness and performance.