In The Witness, Jennifer Jeffries feels an overwhelming anxiety about testifying against the man who attacked her. She barely escaped with her life; how can she face him in a courtroom? To calm and encourage her, Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sinclair says, “Fear is what you are feeling, but courage is what you are doing.”
This is a critical distinction: Fear is a feeling, an emotion. Courage, however, is an action. Courage and fear often remain connected, because fear can be present as we move into action.
In his book, Ready, Begin! Practical Strategies for Cultivating Courage, my husband, Larry, identified five cornerstones of courage:
1. Courage is taking action despite fear.
Like other detectives who interview individuals who have survived frightening and painful events, DCI Sinclair knows that the legal process cannot wait for witnesses to be completely free from fear. As Mark Twain wrote, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear.”
2. Courage grows out of clarity of purpose.
Sinclair believes that it is critical to give witnesses a sense of purpose. Without it, they may choose not to participate in the judicial process. In The Witness, Sinclair was struck by Jenny’s helplessness. Hence he emphasized the empowering nature of speaking the truth in court.
3. Courage is like a muscle. We can develop it by using it.
Unfortunately Jenny’s previous experiences did not prepare her for the challenges she would need to face in order to overcome her fear and rebuild her life. She is even too frightened at first even to tell the London police about what happened to her. The small challenges, however, which she faces while in witness protection strengthen her. As retired UK police inspector David Farley said, “Courage is a quality you grow into, like filling bigger shoes. The more you walk in them, the more comfortable they get.” Testifying in the trial against her attacker was more difficult for Jenny than testifying against his accomplices.
4. Courage resides in everyone.
Although John Buchan believed that the “true task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, since the greatness is already there,” I think Buchan would agree that the same is true of courage. Certainly DCI Sinclair demonstrated leadership when he persuaded Jenny that she had sufficient courage to proceed.
5. Courage is contagious.
What gives us courage is believing what we want is achievable. Even when Jenny doesn’t believe she can face the man who tried to kill her, others do, and over time their belief in her courage increases her belief in herself. When she steps into the witness-box, she knows that she is not alone.
It took courage for Jenny to deal with her trauma, to learn to trust others, and to face the world with her scarred face and psyche, but her witness protection officers help her to begin the process. Sergeant Casey, a former special forces soldier, used training and discipline to deal with what he called his “apprehension.” Constable Sullivan uses humor. Constable Davies fortifies them with food. All three understand the importance of team cohesion.
Want to help a friend be more courageous? Want to help yourself to do the same? Buy a copy of The Witness and read it over the Christmas holidays. Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, Nook, Kindle.
Here’s what one reader said recently about The Witness:
5.0 out of 5 stars Bloody Brilliant!
By Entertained from Dallas: I was attracted to The Witness by the cover, but it was the rush and suspense of the writing that pulled me through the 485 pages. As I read page after page sleeping became less important; I had to find out what happened next! The Witness is set in England, and the author gives the reader a mental journey along with a heartache while reading about the abuse, terror and uncertainty Jennifer Jeffries, Kryske’s heroine, experienced. The Witness is a well crafted page turner!