In To Kill A Mocking Bird Atticus Finch says, “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” Often, at the end of my work days, when I look back over the teenagers I have worked with and the parents that support them I see this type of courage.

I cannot tell you how often I have someone walk into my office who know that they are “licked” and don’t know how they are going to keep going. But, time and time again, I watch in awe as these people make a choice to keep going, to move forward into what is the unknown for them. More often than not, the decision to move forward brings more questions and uncertainty, and I watch as these people grow in strength and determination to take their relationships and life back from whatever thoughts, feelings, urges or memories are threatening to destroy them.

There are also times when people don’t choose to take their life back, but instead choose to merely exist. I still see courage! These people have often been through literal hell and back. The idea that these people, who have often experienced horrific trauma in one way or another, still come and still open up and still talk to me, keep putting one foot in front of the other is amazing. They march on and I see courage still.

C. JoyBell said, “We can’t be afraid to change. You may feel secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know there is a such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, maybe the very reason you don’t have something better.” To watch a person reach for this type of change is often terrifying for the person reaching and a privilege to watch from where I sit.

Maybe you are a parent struggling to understand a child or maybe you are the one in therapy; to both I encourage you to see courage in your child or yourself. Often, society will say those who need support or time or therapy or all of the above are broken or beyond repair. Instead, I choose to see people who walk into my room and, sometimes trembling with fear, choose to look in the mirror and reach for change; I choose to see courage not brokeness. They often are doing what the rest of us fear to do. It is as an honor to have the front row seat that I have.  I leave you with this….

“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson