taking responsible risks

‘Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it ’.
(Nelson Mandela)

HOM: Taking Responsible risks

In ‘The Wizard of Oz’ four friends set off along the yellow brick road in search of particular things they feel they lack. The tin man wishes for a ticking heart in order to love; the straw man wishes for a brain in order to be intelligent; Dorothy an orphan, wants to find the home where she will belong and the lion wants to gain courage. 

All believe that the Wizard of Oz will give them everything they dream of and so they set off along the yellow brick road, with great hope that their dreams will come true. However, the wizard turns out to be a fraud and the four friends are deeply disappointed until they realise they have in fact gained everything for which they had hoped.

Through a journey beset by challenges the tin man has become the best and most loving of friends with a true heart; the straw man has developed a brain for problem solving; Dorothy has recognised that there is ‘no place like home’ and it is back in Kansas with her loving family; and, of course, the lion has proven that he has real courage through defending his friends and triumphing over his fear.


Those who have courage are not without fear but as Mandela says those who are able to ‘triumph over it’. Hopefully few of us will be required to summon the kind of courage needed to overcome serious or dangerous situations but there will be times when we may need to challenge injustice or have the courage of our convictions.

Then there is the sort of courage we need on a personal level to face the challenges set us. Mock examinations are upon us and these can make us fearful, so we need to summon the courage to do give our best efforts and to be open to learning from our mistakes. It is then we will develop greater resilience in order to make progress.

This is difficult I know, but Mathew Sayed used an interesting metaphor in his Times column last week to illustrate it. In order to develop muscles he points out we need to ‘really go for it; to lift weights that cause your muscles to hurt (but obviously not so much you drop them on your toes and end up in A & E!)’. For it is when your muscles tear a bit- when you cause yourself, in effect, minor physical injury – that you get the full blessings. This is when the body responds with powerful metabolic processes that mend micro-tears and lead to stronger, tauter muscles’. Just as the body responds when it is put under a certain degree of stress which makes it stronger, so the mind can also strengthen when it courageously meets certain challenges.  

It’s a question of ‘no pain, no gain’ and that’s why we need to push ourselves though the pain barrier, which of course requires personal courage. But just like the lion who gains courage and resilience through meeting his challenges on the yellow brick road, we may discover we are made of stronger stuff than we thought!


Christine Crossley