The Oxford dictionary primarily defines ‘brave’ as the following: Ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage. I would also add to this definition: attempting to wear white at an Italian restaurant, grocery shopping on an empty stomach and listening to Hanson in public (YOU CAN’T NOT DANCE AND EPICALLY KAROKE WHEN LISTENING TO HANSON, Y’ALL!!! It’s literally physically impossible.)
But back to my good friend Oxford. According to its definition, me thinks that there are two primary parts, two very crucial ingredients to being brave – the ability to endure, and courage. I might add that when one is brave, two of these qualities have to co-exist, and they are both of equal importance.
In order to understand bravery, one must first understand its opposite – fear.
Fear. That dirty, four-letter word. It’s a creeper, a prohibitor. It is an enemy, and a cruel one at that. Most people don’t like to get to know their enemies, but I am of the opinion that one must not only know their enemies, but also understand them.
Like a lot people, two of my biggest fears are that of rejection and failure. Oof. Those things give me the heeby-jeebies just in mentioning them. Which makes sense, because they are supposedly the two contemporary greatest human fears alongside spiders, and running out of Oreos, and spiders, and tornadoes, and spiders and did I mention spiders? Okay. Maybe these things are just what I tend to fear on the regular, but you get the idea.
Search “overcoming fear” on the Googles, Pinterests and other areas of the inter webs and you are bound to be hit with a kajillion quotes (I love a good cliché, but for all intents and purposes, I will spare you). The most profound thing I have learned about fear in my almost 30 years of life is that there really is no escaping it.
But knowing that fear is inescapable is exactly why bravery is of utmost necessity in life.
Fear is the thing that paralyzes, while bravery is the thing that frees. Fear is the thing that chooses mediocre, while bravery is the thing that takes the risk of chance, a chance that could bring greatness or defeat. Fear always leads to regret, while bravery leads to knowing.
Bravery requires endurance because it requires persistence and perseverance – that thing that keeps you going after the proverbial fat lady has sung and the show is over. Bravery requires courage because first you must make the choice to be at the show, and then to get up and rock out with your bad self too.
When I think of all the people in my life who have been brave and who continue to be brave, I realize that bravery means many different things in many different situations.
Sometimes bravery means being the person who stands out in the crowd, who speaks up, and who must be a voice, either the voice they need to hear, or a voice for others. Sometimes bravery means having the prudence to pause, to sit in silence and to just be okay.
Sometimes bravery means putting up the fight of your life, and fighting till the very end. Sometimes bravery means raising up that white flag, accepting defeat, and finding the will to move on from that defeat without resentment, and with wisdom.
Sometimes bravery means to search for the things and the people who make you feel alive; to take risks, to be a long shot and an outlier. Sometimes bravery means to be grateful and content and satisfied with the state of your right here and right now.
But bravery, whatever it is some of the time, to be authentic, to be able to endure, to be an act of courage, must also be an act of love.
Whether of a thing or of a person or of a place, bravery must be manifested through this love. And to be brave you must accept that the great love of anything may result in heartbreak and pain and disappointment. To be brave, you must be willing to risk the possibility of a terrifying ending.
To be brave is to be alive and to live in such a way that the world knows you are afraid, but you love more than you fear.
Bravery rocks, kids!
Almost as much a plate full of Oreos. 😉