True bravery

Posted by Kenetha Stanton on

Woman with the words "Born to be ... Brave" written on her hands that she is holding by her face Image credit: Born to be... by artmajor24, on Flickr. Used via Creative Commons licensing.

“True bravery is having the courage to take responsibility for your life, the strength to make changes, and the wisdom to let others own their own lives …” ~author unknown

I tend to think of bravery in connection with heroic feats, something that people display when they do amazing things that require great courage. Soldiers risking their lives on the battlefield. Firemen heading into a fire to save someone’s life. Someone facing their fear of heights by learning to skydive.

Bravery is all of those things, but it’s also that which we show in the quieter, unheralded daily acts that require us to act with courage to be better people, to serve those around us, to do the right thing even when it is difficult.

In fact, I remember hearing someone once say that it takes less courage to die for someone than to live for them because the former is a decision made once in a single moment while the latter is a decision that must be made over and over every moment of every day.

The bravery talked about in the quote above is that latter kind of bravery. It’s the deep, costly, daily kind of bravery that goes unnoticed and uncelebrated by the world. It’s also the kind of true bravery that we are all called to every moment of every day.

I’ve never considered myself to be a brave person, but the older I get, the more I can see how I am learning to be brave.

I am learning to take responsibility for my own life. I’m learning to save myself and to release the expectation that someone is going to come along to make me feel complete by their presence in my life. I am learning to express my authentic self even when it means losing support of those closest to me. I still have a long way to go, but I can see progress.

I am learning to embrace change—to accept it when it is imposed on me and to willingly choose it when it is in my best interests. The last few years have been filled with change—both chosen and imposed—and I have not only survived, I have thrived. Given my high need for security, my ability to deal so successfully with this much change (which was very seldom anything but secure!) has demonstrated a great deal of bravery.

It’s the last thing on the list, though, that really caught my attention: “the wisdom to let others live their own lives.”

It's immediately apparent to me that this is wise, but it took me awhile to see the bravery in it. I finally realized that it’s brave because it means giving up all illusion of control. Although we have no control over other people and how they live their lives anyway, trying to make them live their lives in ways that meet our needs or make us more comfortable gives us the comforting illusion of control. And it takes true bravery to let go of that illusion.

Besides, it’s so much easier to spend my time and energy deciding how everyone around me should be living their lives—evaluating their choices, analyzing their patterns, defining their shortcomings (and how they should fix them)—than it is to use that time and energy taking responsibility for my own stuff.

The truth is that I have more than enough work to do on myself to last me this lifetime and beyond, so focusing on other people as a means of avoiding dealing with my own stuff is just cowardice on my part.

In fact, it seems to me that the first and last points are actually connected. The more I take responsibility for myself, the less energy I have for trying to take responsibility for anyone else. Likewise, the more I let others live their own lives, the more energy I have for taking responsibility for my life.

Healing our broken places, living life fully, becoming all that we are meant to be—these things all take true bravery. We want to think that these things are easy and that everyone should be able to do them effortlessly, but that's not how life works.

In fact, there are times when life is so challenging that just getting out of bed and facing another day may be the bravest thing we do (which falls in the category of taking responsibility for our lives). True bravery is seldom heroic and is seldom applauded by others, but it's a necessary part of living life well.

We were born to be brave because bravery is what is needed to be the people we were born to be.

How well are you living a life a true bravery? Take a moment and give yourself credit from the many ways you demonstrate true bravery on a daily basis and let those examples inspire you to continue being brave in the ways that matter!

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