Image Image

S2 EP121 – The True Nature of Courage and Grit

Episode Summary

Do you have the courage and grit to do the things you are afraid of, or do you allow fear to stop you? Do you have the courage to love yourself and others, even when you might encounter others’ uncaring or angry behavior, or is the pseudo-safety of control more important to you? Do you have the courage to go deeper into personal growth and learning, face your wounded self and discover your true soul essence?


Hi everyone. Dr. Margaret Paul here with the Inner Bonding podcast, and today I will be talking about the true nature of courage and grit. First, here are some quotes about courage that I like:

Nelson Mandela said: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”

Muhammad Ali said “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”

George F. Tilton said “Success is never final and failure never fatal. It’s courage that counts.”

The word ‘courage’ always makes me think of the cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz. I love that he does whatever he needs to do to free Dorothy. His love for her is so strong that it overcomes his fear, and in having the grit to take brave actions on her behalf, he finds his courage.

Many years ago, I worked with a man who been in the armed service as a parachute jumper. As part of his job, he would courageously jump into enemy territory. Yet, when it came to feeling his feelings, he had no courage at all. He was so terrified of his feelings that he lived his life numbed out, which made it impossible for his wife to connect with him. He was working with me because his wife had said she would divorce him unless he opened his heart to her. But, since love and pain are in the same place in the heart, to open to his love for her, he also had to open to his pain, and he was very scared to do that. He said early in our work together that he would rather risk his life in enemy territory than risk getting emotionally hurt. It took great courage for him to open to the deep pain of childhood abuse that had been buried in him since he was a child.

Look inside and see what you have not had the courage to do:

  • Do you hold back following your passion out of fear of failure?
  • Are you relationship avoidant out of fear of engulfment – of feeling trapped?
  • Do you keep yourself isolated for fear of rejection?
  • Do you resist learning to love yourself out of fear you can’t do it?
  • Do you procrastinate out of fear of being controlled?
  • Do you avoid trying new things for fear of making a fool of yourself?
  • Do you stay focused in your head rather than in your body, or numb out with addictions out of fear of getting hurt?
  • Do you stay stuck in a job you dislike out of fear of failure?
  • Do you stay stuck in an unloving relationship out of the fear of being alone?
  • Do you avoid personal growth out of fear of finding out something about yourself that you don’t like?
  • Do you avoid opening to a spiritual source of love and guidance for fear of finding out that nothing is there, or that nothing is there for you?
  • Do you avoid speaking up for fear of being wrong and being rejected?
  • Do you keep yourself limited for fear of making mistakes?

There is no doubt that it takes courage to risk making mistakes, or failing, or getting hurt, or losing yourself. It takes huge courage to risk opening your heart and loving. One of my favorite quotes is this one by C.S. Lewis from The Four Loves:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”

It doesn’t take courage to do the easy stuff – the stuff that doesn’t scare us. It takes courage to do what it is what we are afraid of, and that’s what brings joy to life.

Dr. Erika Chopich, the co-creator of Inner Bonding, suggested the title for this podcast, and shared her thoughts about courage and grit.

“Courage,” she said, “is the intention, and grit is the action, and it takes both to accomplish what you want to accomplish. The wounded self has no place in that moment in time. For example, I was at a dairy farm that also had some horses. As I walked out into the pasture to meet horses, a huge 16-hand paint came running to me and as I realized he was going to charge me, I threw my arms up to stop him. But then he started to rear up, through his ears back and showed me the whites of his eyes, and I realized he was going to rear up at me. I had at that time a piece of rope in my hand. I said ‘No’ and as he rose up, I flicked him in the belly knowing that it was the most sensitive part of the horse and turned him away from me and sent him running. Had I not acted when I did it’s very likely I would have been injured by the out of control mean horse that he was. Courage was the intention to stand my ground and not be overrun or injured, but the grit was taking the actual action so close to this snorting beast.

“We are challenged to show our courage and our grit daily. Sometimes it’s a small challenge in our day-to-day lives in dealing with other people or setting good boundaries and limits. Sometimes, it’s much larger. I lived through this when I recently suffered a near fatal stroke resulting from long haul COVID, which is what the neurologist said caused the stroke.

“I knew I was having a stroke before the paramedics arrived and stayed relatively calm all the way through the experience of the emergency room. But when the neurologist entered my room in the ICU and said ‘Erika, you’re hemorrhaging in your brain stem,’ the fear began to rise in me, and actually it was more like panic. As I calmed myself down, my courage began to rise as well as my grit. I laid there helpless as I had to be suctioned around the clock, no longer able to swallow and my speech was impaired. Paralysis was creeping through the right side of my body and even breathing was becoming difficult. My courage said over and over ‘I am not leaving. I am staying here no matter what.’ I could feel my body weakening and my soul preparing to leave, but my courage kept repeating over and over, ‘No this is not my time. I have people to look after and animals to care for. I am not leaving. I am staying here.’ That was my courage speaking.

“The grit came later when a completely horrible physician entered the room less than 24 hours later, declaring that I would have to have a feeding tube in my stomach for six months and spend four months in a rehab hospital. That was unacceptable to me. I looked her dead in the eye and said, ‘You don’t know that!’ To which she responded, screaming loud enough for all to hear, ‘If you don’t listen to what I tell you and do what I tell you to do, you are going starve to death and die!’ My courage allowed me to be defiant and soon my grit took over and I knew that I would do whatever I had to do and take any steps I had to, to rehabilitate myself. I went about taking every action necessary and within two weeks I was back on solid food, walking without assistance, and two weeks and two days after the stroke I was back in the round pen with my beloved horses.

“It took courage to face my own mortality, but it took grit to actually stay here and regain my function. Courage is more than a wish. It is a summoning of all your spiritual being, all of your life experience and your absolute faith in what you know. Grit is the loving adult saying, ‘I’m stepping in here and I’m going to do whatever is necessary to meet this challenge.’ Your courage and your grit combine like two hands in prayer, and they never waver. They do not fail, and they are summoned when you feel the hand of God take your hand, and you know that you will rise to the occasion and that you are never alone in the in the journey.”

I was in the hospital room with Erika and another friend of ours, when that terrible doctor was yelling at Erika and threatening her. We were horrified. The doctor was sarcastic knowing we were psychologists, and when Erika said, “You don’t know that!” the doctor sarcastically said, “You can’t fix this with your mind,” and I said, quite emphatically, “You don’t know her mind.” In fact, due to our knowledge of alternative medicine and help from an amazing friend, Anat Baniel, founder of Neuromovement, who knows how to wake up the brain, and who came on Zoom to show us exercises on Day 2, Erika was beginning to be able to swallow by the second day, and we brought her home on the 4th day. We found out later that the hospital had already arranged for Erika to go to a rehab less than 24 hours after the stroke. That would have been a disaster.

Erika also had the courage to say, “I can’t stay in this hospital – they don’t know what they are doing. They are abusing me and I will die here,” so our friend and I took her to another hospital the evening of the second day after the stroke. It took great courage and grit for Erika to leave the hospital in the face of their threats that another hospital wouldn’t take her. They wouldn’t even let her have a wheelchair or use an ambulance. They were horrible.

Erika went on to say, “Thanks to Margaret’s brilliant knowledge in nutrition, she took me from liquids to puree to soft food and then on to solid foods within a week. My courage allowed me to be defiant to the doctor and nurses in the terrible hospital. I didn’t allow them to steal my courage.

“I was clumsy in the round pen with my beloved mare Princess Leia, but she understood from the beginning that something was wrong with me and was trying her best to help me through our exercises together. I decided to walk all three horses to the fresh green grass in our front yard for a few moments of rich grazing and peace. As I held the very end of the line, I actually managed to lay down and stretch out in the grass, watching the clouds and my horse at the same time. Leia was about eight feet from me happily munching her grass while she kept one eye and one ear on me, and I noticed she was munching closer and closer to me the entire time. She eventually reached my left shoulder with her hooves and was grazing right next to my left ear when suddenly she began to nuzzle me up and down the left side of my face, ever so gently stroking me. I realized in that moment she was treating me like a foal. She was saying ‘It’s OK. I got you mom.’ It was one of the most profound moments of healing in my entire life. As the tears streamed down my face and rolled into my ears, the two minis, Obi Wan and Yoda, came up to join us and surround me in love and in peace.

“Most people would not have the courage or the grit to lay down with their herd of horses, fearing they would be stepped on. But I knew better. A horse never steps on another horse and certainly never steps on a foal. I had the courage to trust my knowledge and instinct and the grit to take the action of getting myself to the ground and back up again. After that Leia slowly walked me back to the barn and our bond grew stronger than ever.

“Courage is the inspiration. It’s the summoning. It’s the knowing. It’s the gathering of your soul reaching to God. Grit is the willingness and determination to take action. It is the loving adult.

“The mistake most people would have made during the stroke would have been to just turn themselves over to a physician and abandon their own courage and grit and knowing. No one can provide those things for you. They must come from within, and you must be willing at times of life to be your own advocate and trust in your higher guidance and your loving adult. It’s the difference between living your life and having your life happen to you.”

People whose friends and relatives who have had the kind of stroke that Erika had, and medical people we know, have called Erika a miracle. The miracle comes from God, but Erika had to have the courage and grit to love herself enough to summon the miracle.

Do you have the courage and grit to love yourself?

Some heartbreaking events led me to do some deep work with my guidance to explore why so many people persist in being devoted to controlling, rather than to loving themselves.

I asked my guidance, “Why? I need to understand why these people keep focusing on trying to control in the face of so many negative consequences. What are they so afraid of?” 

This is what my Guidance said to me…

They are afraid of many things. They are afraid of engulfment, of being controlled and losing themselves. They are afraid of rejection, of failure, and of feeling the core pain of helplessness, loneliness, heartbreak, and grief. But the bottom line under all this fear is that they lack COURAGE. They lack the courage to forge ahead and risk the pain of rejection and failure, rather than open their hearts.

In their minds, it is easier and safer to withdraw, to pull on others, to turn to addictions, and to judge themselves to try to get themselves to do it ‘right’, to try to control how others feel about them. They believe that it is easier and safer to rely on their own minds rather than open to their higher mind, and that it is easier to try to control themselves and others, rather than open to learning about loving themselves and take the loving actions on their own behalf.

It takes courage to trust your feelings, to surrender to your higher self, to risk loss rather than continue to try to control. It takes courage to have an open heart, which you have when your intent is to learn about loving yourself and risk your heart getting hurt. 

“But,” I said, “they are so miserable, so needy, so anxious and depressed. Why is it worth it to them? Over and over I hear that they don’t want to risk feeling the loneliness and heartbreak of rejection and failure. Are you saying that the underlying issue is they lack courage?”

Yes, this is what I’m saying, she said. When you are feeling lonely around others, it is always because they lack the courage to risk feeling the pain of rejection and failure, so they close their hearts to loving themselves and others. When you feel connected with someone, it is because love is vitally important to them, which gives them the courage to open to learning with their guidance about loving themselves. People with courage take the risks of honoring their own knowing, even if others don’t like it. These are the people who value themselves enough to take loving care of themselves emotionally, physically, and in all other areas.

While some of the people who are devoted to controlling appear to be strong, they are coming from fear and lack of courage. They convince themselves that their strength is in controlling rather than loving, but they are coming from weakness rather than strength. The immediate loneliness you feel in your heart lets you know this. You must trust this feeling of loneliness.

“But,” I said, “I feel this with most people. So, the truth is that most people lack the courage to love rather than to control?”

Yes, she said, that is the sad truth.

This was a sad, yet very important truth for me to accept. For me, it took courage to honor my loneliness as vital information, rather than kid myself into believing that someone is open when they are really closed and protected. It took courage for me feel the heartbreak of others’ lack of courage, and to feel the helplessness of knowing that I can hold up the mirror, but I can’t force them to make loving more important than controlling.

I find it sad that it takes courage to love ourselves. But the truth is that our culture has come so far from our natural way of being – which is to love ourselves – that now it does take courage, a lot of courage and a lot of grit.

Many of us have been programmed to believe that being ‘selfless’ is being good, and that being loving to ourselves is selfish. We’ve been programmed to believe that if we ignore our own feelings and needs and attend to the feelings and needs of others, then we will be seen as good, and we will be loved.

There is so much backward thinking in these statements that I hardly know where to begin to untangle it.

Loving yourself – loving the spark of the Divine within you, your soul that is created in the image of God-that-is-love – is like loving a beloved child. It’s about cherishing your intrinsic gifts and sharing them with those you love. When you are truly loving yourself, you would never be selfish because it’s very unloving to yourself to be selfish by not caring about the effect your behavior has on others, and to ignore others’ feelings and needs, and to expect others to give themselves up for you. Loving yourself is what fills you with love to share with others.

Selflessness and selfishness are actually the opposite of knowing who you are – knowing the beauty and greatness of your soul essence. Anyone who has been selfless knows that it eventually leads to feeling depleted and depressed, because when you are giving to others without also loving yourself, you end up feeling empty inside.

If this is what you’ve been doing, it takes great courage and grit to focus on loving yourself and letting go of caretaking others to get love. Those to whom you’ve been giving, to get their attention and approval, may become angry at you for what they perceive as you abandoning them. They liked your caretaking, and they may not even know how to be with you when you are supporting your own and others’ highest good. So, it takes great courage and grit to weather their wrath and perhaps even lose them.

I’d had three sessions with my client, Molly, when I decided it was time to approach her about her intent. In my experience, she believed she was open to learning, but was completely closed to learning about herself. We were getting stuck because when I would reflect something to her about herself,  particularly her controlling wounded self, she would get defensive, obviously feeling attacked by me.

“Molly, there must be a good reason that you are not open to learning.”

“I am open to learning. I love to learn. I’m always learning, and I feel very unseen by you that you don’t get I’m open to learning.”

“Well, in my definition of being open to learning, you would be curious regarding why I don’t think you are open, rather than getting defensive and upset with me.”

“Well, okay. What do you mean by open to learning and why don’t you think I’m open?”

“Molly, you are obviously interested in learning lots of things. You are very interested in learning everything you can about training dogs and flying planes. But when it comes to learning about yourself—especially about your wounded self and the various ways you control, you close up and get defensive. Do you have a judgment about being controlling?”

“Yes, it’s wrong to try to control.”

“Well then, that’s the problem. In my experience, we’ve all learned many ways of trying to control others, outcomes, and our own painful feelings. We needed to learn these strategies as we were growing up to survive, but now these controlling behaviors are causing us problems. From what I see, they are causing lots of problems between you and your husband and you and your son. Are you willing to open to learning about your own controlling behaviors?”

“Oh, now I see why you experienced me as closed. I have been closed to learning about this because I’ve always thought it was wrong to control.” Molly then opened and we had a wonderful session.

Do you have the courage to learn about yourself?

What are you afraid of finding out about yourself? These are some of what clients have told me about their fear of learning about themselves:

  • I will find out something awful about myself—something that proves I’m bad, not good enough, inadequate, unlovable, or unworthy.
  • I will find out about something that happened to me as I was growing up that I can’t handle.
  • I will discover that I have to completely change my life—my work, my relationship, everything.
  • I will have to feel feelings that are too scary to feel.
  • I will find out that there is nothing to find out—that I’m empty inside.

It takes courage and grit to be open to learning about ourselves, especially about our wounded selves.

It takes courage and grit to take loving actions, like Erika did in the hospital, when we know that others are going to be angry at us and might even threaten us, as the awful doctor and nurses in the hospital did.  It takes courage and grit to come up against the anger of loved ones, especially a partner or our children. Be honest with yourself: do you have the courage to be loving to yourself and the grit to do what you know is in your highest good, even when you know that others will be angry with you? Erika’s willingness to do this on the second day of her near-fatal stroke likely saved her life.

Courage and grit have saved my life numerous times, and it’s what has brought me a wonderful life of peace and joy. We all have the choice, moment by moment, to choose to act from love, courage and grit, for ourselves and others, rather than from fear.

I hope you join me for my 30-Day at-home Course: “Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships.”

You can learn so much about loving yourself and creating loving relationships from my recent books:

And we have much to offer you at our website at

I’m sending you my love and my blessings.

Related Articles


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *