A Note on Bravery
By Virginia Carraway Stark
“You’re so brave.”
It’s a phrase that is said with envy, appreciation, pride and genuine joy in the ability of the human spirit to recover from trauma and harm or even facing the threat of them.
I am someone who is extraordinarily brave. I have learned this mostly from having it repeated to me by so many people, most of whom have only heard a fraction of what I’ve experienced. I don’t feel like I’m a brave person. I feel like I’m just a person.
This is just me. If I can be brave you can do it too.
The difference that I’ve learned between those who are called brave and those who are not is that brave people have limits. Brave people have boundaries and these boundaries are inflexible and will not, cannot be sacrificed. Brave people don’t know how to be any way except brave. To our admirers we are told we are strong, beautiful, courageous and to our enemies we are obdurate, frustrating and devastating. Brave people can still have fears, anxiety, problems and enemies.
I have a lot of enemies. I have a lot of people I have said, ‘no’ to. I have a lot of people who I have had to say, ‘I cannot go on this path with you, it goes against my heart’. I have lost friends, I have lost family, I have found myself in danger because my boundaries are what they are and when they are impinged on my heart speaks loudly and I am sworn to follow my heart. I have problems. The Universe may love me, but he’s also not at all concerned with giving me an easy ride.
To those people who are not brave it is confounding. We cannot be bribed, cajoled, convinced or threatened when our heart speaks. We, the brave, will die for our convictions without a second thought because to betray our hearts is to betray our souls, our very selves and to unmake ourselves.
I have been told that I am impossible to understand. Why could I go for years having forgiven my father and my family only to speak up now. The answer is simple: I realized that to not tell my story with the new information I had would be a betrayal of myself. I have to tell the truth now and to do anything else would be to obliterate myself. I have been demonized and shunned by my biological family and I have been abandoned since I was a child by those whose sole duty to their child was to protect them from as much harm as possible.
None of that mattered until I realized that my Dad ‘merely’ hadn’t violated my body and mind, he had also violated my soul and fed others lies about my very nature. That was the line for me. That was the boundary.
There is no trick to bravery. It’s hardwired into you. The universe guides your footfalls and when your heart bids you to speak up against a wrong you must. When your heart bids you to protect someone who is being attacked you must. When your heart bids you to face your enemies down no matter the consequences you do so.
It has been a surprise to me throughout life that bravery is a rare quality. Fear is a predominate characteristic and people care more about offending strangers than they care about betraying their own heart. People would rather be ‘friends’ with relatives they despise than speak out and face the danger of creating an enemy even though every minute with the relative is a corruption of your own essence.
Fear is an easy cage. Fear is the idea that different is bad. That ‘what ifs’ are dangerous. Fear is the idea that the only point to living is to live as long as you an despite your circumstances, despite your joy, despite your love, despite your heart screaming in agony inside you. Fear is prolonging life at any cost. Fear is doing the same thing that you hate doing every day because it’s ‘not so bad’ and ‘it could be worse’ instead of taking the plunge and running to see what’s over the next horizon.
Bravery. I am me. I will follow my heart and if I die tomorrow I will know that I died without regret or betrayal of myself. Bad things can happen to you and you can still live without regret. You can have deep sorrows in your heart as I do and still know that you did your part. You can live every day making the best choices from where your path leads you.
I want to thank everyone who has told me that I’m brave. It’s so much better than being told that I’m wrong for listening to my heart or that I’m lying for telling the truth.
I also want to tell everyone that you can be brave too. You don’t need to do battle with monsters who abuse you in ways so horrific that they are worthy of being ogres out of a dark fairy tale to be brave. You can be brave by being the person who is kind when others are being cruel. You can be brave by saying, ‘this is wrong’ and not just looking away. You can make boundaries and you can keep them. You can be happy. You can be proud of yourself for making and keeping boundaries.
If everyone is just a little bit brave everyone will have a better life. The evil bullies and monsters that infect this world will be shocked to learn that they can’t do whatever they want to you or to anyone else. You’ll make them mad, even if you do it a little bit. Do it anyway. Then do it again.
There are worse things than death and cowardice is one of them. Be brave. Love. Laugh. Don’t be captive to your fears. If you are sad be brave enough to ask why you’re sad and then be brave enough to face the answers you receive.
You will face rejection, pain and death no matter what you do in this life. Choose to be the protagonist in your own story and start being just a little bit braver every day.
Walk with me, be fearless.
With much love,
Are you brave? Have you been even a little brave and it’s made you braver still? Please share your story to inspire others. Sharing your own story is yet another piece of bravery and I believe in you.