Lissa Rankin M.D.

Owning Pink

Are You Brave? Lessons About Fear & Courage From The Colorado Tragedy

Fear & Courage: Two Sides Of One Coin

Posted Jul 31, 2012

Colorado teen Jarell Brooks just wanted to see a movie about superheroes. He didn’t realize, as he entered the fated theater in Aurora to see the latest Batman movie, that he was about to become one.

The 19-year-old was ready to high-tail it outta dodge when the gunman opened fire in a packed movie house of midnight-theater goers excited to see The Dark Knight Rises. But as he, along with hundreds of others, rushed for the exits, he noticed Patricia Legarreta, struggling to save her toddler and infant, and suddenly, saving his own life didn’t seem quite as important. Crawling on top of Patricia to protect her and pushing her and her babies out the side exit to safety, Jarell was shot in the thigh, and Patricia was mildly injured with buckshot, but the children were safe, and both Jarell and Patricia have been released from the hospital.

About what Jarell did, Patricia told ABC News, “It makes me feel glad because I felt helpless. Everybody at that moment was going through it, and to know that someone had that mindset, it makes me feel happy to know that in times of trial, there are good people out there.”

Heroes Who Lost Their Lives

Three other heroes, who put themselves between their girlfriends and the line of fire, weren’t so blessed. As reported here, Jon Blunk, Matt McQuinn and Alex Teves used their bodies as bullet shields to protect their girlfriends as accused madman James Holmes turned the Aurora cineplex into a shooting gallery. Jansen Young, Samantha Yowler; and Amanda Lindgren made it out with intact bodies but broken hearts, having lost the loves of their lives.

Heroes In Our Midst

I’m working on a book proposal for my next book, which I’ll describe in more detail at some future point, but which may revolve around fear and how we become resilient to it, transforming fear into courage. As I’m researching the book, I’m coming across stories of profound bravery, studying people like Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr, Nelson Mandela, Erin Brockovich, Miep Gies who protected Anne Frank, Harvey Milk who spoke out about gay rights, Paul Rusesabagina who saved 1,200 lives during the Rwanda genocide, 9/11 firefighter Stephen Siller, and Virginia Tech professor Liviu Lebrescu, who saved the lives of 22 of his students during the Virginia Tech massacre.

These people must have faced impossible fears, and yet they found within themselves the courage to do what they must, even when it meant putting their lives at risk. I can’t help wondering, “What inner resources do they call upon?”

Fear & Courage: Two Sides Of One Coin

In an informal survey on Facebook (you can see the nearly 50 responses here) and Twitter (dozens more responses showed up there), I asked people to share with me their deepest fears. Answers ranged from fear of losing a loved one, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of financial disaster, fear of suffering and death, fear of being unlovable and winding up alone, fear of regret, fear of unworthiness, and fear of the unknown to phobias, such as fear of spiders, snakes, roaches, and heights.

I then asked people to tell me the bravest thing they’ve ever done and what inner resources they’ve called upon to face their fears and stand fully in their courage. If this next book is a go, I’m going to be interviewing people who have done impossibly brave things in the face of the gravest fears – risking one life to save another’s, putting a broken heart on the linetaking great financial risk to follow a dream, risking your healthas living kidney donors dotaking impossible risks to follow a dream.

I want to interview people who have walked in the valley of fear and decided to feel the fear and do it anyway, like I have, on my good days, been brave enough to do. (You can read my story here.)

Courage Comes In All Colors

We all have our brave moments, when we decide to do something that feels impossible, and yet we do it anyway. Bravery isn’t just about saving someone’s life. We’re impossibly brave when we face a health crisis and decide to heal ourselves, get brave enough to overcome addictiongather up our moxie and leave an unhappy marriagekeep your heart open after losing a petforgive ourselves after we screw up, and forgive someone else when they hurt us.

I’ve become fascinated with everyday acts of extraordinary courage, with how we all have moments when we’re brave enough to keep our hearts open, take professional and financial risks, do what it takes to heal our bodies and souls, and give in service to someone else.

How Are You Brave?

So tell me, darlings. How are you brave? Tell me your story or tell me the story of someone you know who has done something requiring a boatload of courage. The story just might wind up in my next book – and it’s certain to inspire someone else to be just a wee bit more brave next time the Gremlins of fear show up.

Embracing and in awe of courage,


Lissa Rankin, MD: Creator of the health and wellness communities and, author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, 2013), TEDx speaker, and Health Care Evolutionary. Join her newsletter list for free guidance on healing yourself, and check her out on Twitter and Facebook.

About the Author

Lissa Rankin, M.D., is an OB/GYN physician, author, and founder of Owning Pink Center, a women's health practice in Mill Valley, California.

More Posts