candid thoughts on being brave

I spent a few hours in the car last week, which is always a time when I reconnect with myself and actually can focus my mind without all the distractions of the internet, texting, etc.  One of my thought tangents ended up thinking about bravery.  The word alone, Brave, is something that enters my life and conversation quite a bit simply because of my Winnebago Brave, but I know there's been discussion about being brave here on the blog, either in posts that I've written, or as a discussion in the comments section.  Most recently I had a commenter share that she thought I was brave for choosing blogging as my main income source, as she felt that it would take a lot of courage to leave the security of a more standard job for the insecurity of a job like blogging full time.  Another commenter replied to her, saying that maybe it would be brave if I was 200 lbs, instead of being cute and average and just interesting enough.  I long time ago I recall another commenter responding to something (I can't remember if it was something I wrote in a post, or something another commenter wrote), saying that it was ridiculous to think I was brave for anything I did, because true bravery was found in her husband, who was serving in the military.

But here's what I'm thinking about bravery.  Who is to say who is brave, or what actions are to be called brave?  Something that takes an enormous amount of courage for one person, could be simple and easy for another.  How can we go around telling people they aren't brave, when we have no idea what kind of courage their actions require of them.  Is the word "brave" or "courage" only limited to people who are outside of the social norms, the accepted standard, or for people who do things that are widely considered "brave" (such as military service, firemen/police officers, etc)?  Certainly performing some actions will likely require more bravery than others, especially for those people, but I believe that bravery, like many things, is on a continuum.  Small amounts of courage are required for some things, very large amounts of courage are required for other things.  And most importantly, those amounts widely differ from person to person.  A lot of things that I do that don't require any bravery on my part, could require quite a bit of bravery from a different person.

Is a student who is terrified of public speaking and gives a speech in front of his school braver than a soldier in Iraq?  I've known a few people who would probably much rather do the latter than the former.  So is one braver than the other?  Is a kid who faces their bully at school brave? If you've always wanted to wear something specific, but never felt like you could pull it off, and you decide to go for it and wear it... is that brave?  Is it our place to tell any one of those people that their bravery is illegitimate because we believe that they aren't really being brave, considering all the other things that "clearly" require more courage?

Two summers ago I worked at a summer camp which had a high ropes challenge course.  We would take groups of kids through the course, and told them to focus on giving their 100% while respecting others' 100%.  For some of the kids, just climbing to the top of the ladder, not even getting to the start of the course, was their 100%, for others it meant going through the entire course with a blindfold.  It was important to us that each individual respected every one else's 100%, not making fun of them for only being able to make it to the top of the ladder or not being able to get through the whole course and needing to be rescued midway through.  It could take just as much courage for one kid to make it to the top of the ladder, as it took for the other one to do the entire course with a blindfold.  Each one was out of their comfort zone and each one needed courage to complete the task, even though to some of us it appears that the second kid was way more brave than the first one.  I know that for myself I have pretty much no fear of heights, so when I went through the ropes course I thought it was a blast!  But I had a friend that was pretty scared, and I know that when she went through the course, she was way more brave than I, even though we technically performed the same task.

Bravery is one of those things that we can't see.  It's internal.  It's individual.  There are acts of small bravery.  There are acts of indescribable bravery.  It is more important to show grace to those around us, than trying to determine how brave someone is or is not.  I will leave you with this quote by Ian MacLaren...
(image source)