What Does It Mean To Be Brave?

Someone asked me yesterday, “How are you?”

Without hesitation I blurted out, “I have never been more fully alive.”

This is what I have always dreamed life could be, and I will tell you one thing it is NOT EASY. See that’s what I was after for so long. Safety, comfort, security. I was living small trying to fit inside a box, inside safe walls. I was afraid of what was outside. I wanted to hold tight to what I knew and who I could trust. I kept my heart close and my mouth shut. I thought that was the path to peace and happiness, but I was discontented and lonely, resentful and angry, left wondering if I would ever to be able to live the way I dreamed: uninhibited, creative, free-spirited, full of love. Was that possible? Or was it easier to play it safe and forget all those dreams?

I’ve wavered for a long time. Achieving and living a good life in the middle where it’s safe, and in small, brief moments experiencing the edges of joy and peace and freedom. But the more I felt them, the more I wanted to feel them. I didn’t want to touch them from time to time, I wanted to live with joy, and peace, and freedom all the time. But that also meant inviting in and living with pain, discomfort, and uncertainty.

That’s my life these days. I experience the extremes of life: beauty and tragedy, happiness and sadness, joy and pain, peace and discomfort, security and uncertainty. I am not sure about anything anymore except that I am speaking and living my truth. I am loving and honoring myself and God’s plan. And in the end, that’s what matters to me. This is my path. I will mess up.  I will have to face tough things I used to hide from. I will change my mind. I will fail. And it’s all OK. Because I am human, and I want to learn and grow. The way I was living before, I wasn’t learning and I wasn’t growing…I was just staying…safe.

It is hard to step out and speak up, but now I’m starting to realize what an absolute tragedy it is to live in safe silence. So let’s speak our truth…this is mine.

We can no longer put up and shut up. Hurt people are hurting people every day. I will do my best not to be the person that hurts people, and I will not allow others to hurt me or those around me. That means courageously speaking out and standing up, while respecting and honoring the other person with love, care, and concern. I will give myself permission to express my feelings because that is not the same as complaining or being dramatic or ungrateful. By asking people to suppress their thoughts, feelings, and actions we perpetuate the hurt and the mental illness epidemic. 

When we allow people to express themselves, we do not have to take on their words or perspectives or pain, we simply allow space for it. Look at them and listen. I wondered the other day how good I am at this…really seeing or hearing people, especially when I don’t agree with them. So I started taking inventory of what I have been suppressing and stuffing related to friends, family, spouse, work, community, and worldly issues and I realized I can do better. Much better. If I am not willing to step up or speak out, I am likely not empowering others to do that either.

We can no longer wait for someone else. So many of us have resigned our power and our honor. We find someone else to blame. We criticize and complain without taking action. We are responsible for our thoughts, feelings, actions, and reactions. We need to use them. If we see something, we must say something. When we make a mistake, admit it and apologize. When we do our own internal work and learn how to love and lead ourselves well, our external world will improve.

Together we can stop pulling and pushing people to extremes and differences, and start to focus on what we have in common. We can remain open about our perceptions of reality and our beliefs and values so that others have permission to do the same. Together we can give each other grace and respect and mercy. That will bring us closer to truth and to what Seth Godin refers to as a shared objective reality instead of a polarizing cultural reality. We should make time and take action now. Stop putting things off and making excuses because there may not be tomorrow.

We can step into our own definition of brave. Bravery is not about finding comfort at any cost. Life is hard. Accept that fact, stop resisting and avoiding, and your whole world will change. We are meant to live and feel it all between birth and death. We can do it because we were made for hard things. The definition of brave, according to Glennon Doyle in her new book Untamed, is “living inside out.” It is honoring, trusting, and loving yourself in everything you do and say. You are human. You are connected. You belong. You were meant for love. We were meant for love.

Approach the world with an open mind, an open heart, and love with everything we have, regardless of what happens…now that is brave. 

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