I had a friend call me out the other day. It was something along the line of, “So, you are asking women all over the world to be brave. How are you going to be brave this year?” Awkward silence followed.
There are some things easy for me share bravely, like when I had my whole family in the room as I pushed out my first baby. (I am pretty sure my brother has been traumatized ever since.) But then there are things that make me uncomfortable letting other people in on, things I would rather not talk about. Like how I didn’t get out of bed for four days last Christmas because I couldn’t. Because a season of melancholy suddenly turned into the most horrific battle with anxiety I have ever experienced. Or how in this season of mothering, the demands of my life have shifted, but I haven’t made the necessary adjustments.
Those same feelings of shame came over me when my friend asked me how I was going to be brave. Sure I had things I knew needed attention, brave first steps waiting in the wings, but putting words to them felt too vulnerable. Like I was exposing my most vulnerable secrets to the world, sharing my Achilles heel with an imaginary enemy. Because the fact is, the areas that need brave attention are the areas I want to protect. The areas that have the potential to hurt me deepest if I share them.
Here is the interesting thing about choosing a brave and sharing it with friends. If you are anything like me, it might bring out some uncomfortable emotions. It might find you wondering if your brave is big enough. I was worried others might judge my brave, or pick a better brave I hadn’t thought of. I had to talk myself down from my mental ledge by remembering bravery knows no scale. My brave will be different than your brave. This isn’t a competition to see who has the coolest, bravest brave. We are not living our lives at each other, but rather with one another. Just because a friend chooses a brave that is awesome, her brave doesn’t diminish mine.
As it turns out, sharing our one brave thing with one another is actually a generous gift, because courage expands when it is spoken. That is what I love about women, our bodies multiply and so does our capacity for courage. When we invite friends to cheer us on, it encourages them to be brave in their own lives. But friends can’t share in words that aren’t spoken. It seems to me saying our brave out loud may be our most courageous first step. My favorite attribute of courage is it meets us where we are but will never leave us where it found us. It is always calling us forward. Have you noticed how close sacred and scared are? I believe that’s because it is possible to feel brave and scared at the same time. Our most holy work becomes simply showing up and taking the next brave step. Each step becoming sacred ground, reminding us God is with us.
So, will you join me in choosing a brave? I am guessing you know what yours is. It is the thing persistently trying to get your attention. The idea whispering to you in the most unusual of places. It never shouts. It is more of a flutter in your stomach, gently nudging you toward action. For me, it wakes me up in the middle of the night rarely revealing the whole path stretched out before me. More often in my life, I simply know the one right next step. One step. And it isn’t until I take the first step that the next appears.
So friends, here’s to your brave thing. To finding a way through your wilderness or to finding plenty in the middle of your desert. New things are on the horizon. Get ready to welcome them in.
What brave thing would you like to pursue for the next 6 months?
Mandy Arioto is a mom of three who has transitioned from sippy cups to soccer games. She’s learned the best way to love her tribe is by loving herself.
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