How would you define brave? Karen posed this question on FB as she prepped to speak at her MOPS group, this year’s theme “Be YOU Bravely.”
Being real tumbled from my lips.
Being brave is being real.
Recently Tanner had some warts burned off his knee, an angry cluster that took multiple visits and required us to hold him down while the doctor burned.them.off. It’s for those parenting moments that every doctor’s office needs a martini bar. Amen?
Before we reached the office, his quiet voice spoke. Mom, I’m scared. It’s gonna hurt.
I parked and we sat on the curb outside the gray building, watching sliding doors whoosh open and close.
His eyes pooled and his lips shook and his body got hunchy, and all I could do was stare at freckles smattered across the bridge of his nose. I’m sorry bud, I know you are scared. I would be scared too. But you know what? I admire you because you are brave. You are honest about how you feel. How you really feel. And brave, T, does not mean holding in your emotions or not crying. Being brave actually is being strong enough to say that you are scared and crying if you need to. If you cry, you are not weak. You are brave still.
And oh did he cry. More like screamed and clawed and hated me for five minutes flat. But boy, was he brave.
I thought of this as I called Karen and shared how brave I know her to be. She is brave for her willingness to speak in front of dozens of moms and be vulnerable. She is brave for having flown across America for college and for having lived in a different country. She is brave every time she offers space when I’m sad about missing dad and sends hugs over the phone. She is brave for being real about daily struggles. She is brave for loving others for who they are, not who they ought to be.
After my dad passed I was sitting in a therapist’s office and the came the tears, like they did every time I sat on her darn couch. I swear there was something I was allergic to on that couch. Something she said paused my tears. What did you say, I asked?
I said that you’re brave. Her eyes were calm and confident.
And I lost it all over again. It was a defining moment when someone saw strength in me even though I felt so incredibly small and weak and unbrave.
You see, my friends, when we feel the most messy and in need of something greater than ourselves, bravery is birthed. Being brave is being honest. Like soul honest. Authentic. Being real with ourselves and others. True vulnerability, the type where we offer up the core of ourselves at the risk of being rejected or unseen is brave. When we cry we are brave. When we create we are brave. When we share love and heartache and silence we are brave.
Being brave does not mean you have your crap together. Bravery doesn’t mean you greet the dawn with your superhero cape on and a it’s me against the world mindset. Being brave does not equate swimming with flesh-eating piranhas, hiking death-defying mountains, or faking it to make it. Bravery is not a lack of emotions or tears.
No, bravery, on the contrary, is caring more about digging into the truest sense of who you are, rather than trying to keep it pressed down and locked away behind a stoic countenance and robotic response. Bravery means not having to be okay all the time. Bravery means being comfortable being human and all that comes with it.
Bravery is being real. And being real will set you free.