What does it mean to be brave?
I've been thinking about this a lot recently. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it is seeing bravery in small, every day situations or random people. Maybe it is confronting all of my fears and feeling like I am everything but the essence of brave.
Several of my friends are venturing into the realm of pregnancy with their third baby. The idea of having a third, of going back to the newborn stage all over again, of being outnumbered, absolutely terrifies me. And as they get excited and ready for adding a new life to their growing family, I think, "Wow. She is brave."
I have a friend who was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer a few months ago. She is one of the most positive, upbeat people I know. She hates complaining, and always tries to have an outlook of hope and humor. She has handled her double mastectomy, her intense chemotherapy and now radiation with such grace that I am always humbled when we talk. Talking with her, I realize I take my life, my healthy, my family for granted. And I think, "Wow, she is brave."
I remember being at camp when I was in high school and having to face the high ropes course. I absolutely can't stand heights. It is a true fear. To get onto the ropes course you had to climb a cargo net roughly 20-25 feet into the air. From the cargo net, you went from base to base between trees on various rope stations. It was frightening. I made it halfway up the cargo net and froze. My legs would not take me any higher. My arms would not pull me any further. My stomach felt sick and my entire body shook.
Yes, I was not brave that day.
I think of all the times in my life, on a daily basis, where I am not brave. From small instances of not speaking up or advocating for myself to big instances of not pursuing an opportunity because I was too afraid.
What does it mean to be brave?
When I think of the word brave, I think of the soldiers who fight to protect our country, my friend who is battling cancer. Maybe I connect the word brave with fighting or battles. In America, we hold bravery in very high regard. It is a picture painted of a chin up, strong, fearless individual.
I equate being brave with having no fear.
But I believe this is wrong.
I look at my friend fighting cancer, and I know she is scared even if she doesn't say so. I know soldiers who hit the front lines do not do so without trepidation. I know that every mother who finds out she is pregnant feels a mixture of joy and ohmygoshhowamIgoingtodothis. Yet I believe all of these people are brave.
So what is brave?
Being brave is not the absence of fear. Bravery is living, fighting and surviving in the face of fear. To be brave requires there to be fear, otherwise there would be no victory. Bravery is about pushing through, overcoming, and looking back to say, "Yeah, I did that!."
Bravery is hitting the front lines. Yes. Bravery is conquering chemo. Absolutely. But bravery is parenting while being outnumbered. For some, bravery is introducing yourself to someone new. Bravery is standing up for yourself after years of being put down. Bravery is attempting something you've never attempted before. Bravery is admitting a secret to the world, even though it may change other people's perspective of you. Bravery is believing in yourself when no one else does. Bravery is admitting you are afraid and owning your fears.
Sometimes, friends, bravery is waking up in the morning and deciding to get out of bed and live the day.
So I've decided to look back on all of my non-brave moments in a new way. When I got stuck halfway up the beginning of the ropes course, with tears running down my face in front of all my friends, I was brave. Why? Because I tried.
I was brave.
I am brave.
And you know what? We're all brave. In our own small ways. We are all filled with fear on some level. And in every moment we decide to live despite the fear, to push through in the face of fear, to overcome and survive the fear, we are brave.
Will you own it?