There are times when Fear looms like a six-headed monster, with large white gnashing teeth. There are other times when Fear shows itself as a small, but persistent annoying barking dog. Then there are instances when Fear raises its head in forms of everything and every size between the monster and the dog. In each case, though, I may still be afraid. I may feel that I cannot combat the monster – that the fear is just too, well, frightening.

What helps us overcome fears? “For some clues, consider re-reading the Wizard of Oz,” a friend suggested. “And pay attention to how the Cowardly Lion overcame his fears.”

Well, that’s interesting. I haven’t read the book in ages. Reading a children’s book as an adult is an enlightening experience! The Lion felt he was a coward since he ran from danger. I noticed, though, that he kept facing all of the dangers head-on throughout the book. Oz remarked about that point, too:

“You have plenty of courage, I am sure,” answered Oz. “All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. True courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty. (p. 161; emphasis added)

Clue #1 to overcoming fear: Every living being is afraid of danger. Recognize that fear of danger is “usual, customary and reasonable.”

Clue #2: Face danger when you’re afraid. Overcoming fear is about the process of facing the danger, not about the end result.

Clue #3: When we face our fears, our courage meter goes up!

“…You know, of course, that courage is always inside one; so that this really cannot be called courage until you have swallowed it. Therefore I advise you to drink it as soon as possible.”

The Lion hesitated no longer, but drank till the dish was empty.

“How do you feel now?” asked Oz.

“Full of courage,” replied the Lion… (p. 166)

Clue #4: Courage is already inside of us. Yet we often don’t believe that. We are tested from the outside to bring out our innate courage.

Clue #5: When you face a huge monster – or wicked witch – get help from your team!

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The page numbers I reference are from this edition: L. Frank Baum, Wizard of Oz, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1982. Mr. Baum published the original book August 1, 1900.