I loved Mariam Gates’ post last weekend, Brave Heart, about her son’s broken arm. Mariam’s recounting of her conversation with her son – when he tells her he was not brave because he scared and was cried – is heartfelt, and the reflections she shares about what bravery really means are stirring and thought-provoking. She writes that she is “not interested in bravery that is synonymous with fearlessness” and while I’ve never thought of it so clearly and compellingly, I find myself nodding. Yes, yes, yes. Fearlessness seems like a defense mechanism, doesn’t it? An over-simplification of this life? Mariam calls it disconnection, and I think that’s right. I’ve never been fearless; if anything, I’m often consumed with fears. Fears run through my veins along with hope and wonder and memory, sometimes making my heart skip a beat, sometimes clouding my vision so I can’t see anything other than that which I dread.
So maybe fear is not fearlessness. But then what is it? Well, I like Mariam’s definition:
I think bravery is about being conscious of all of life.
Why yes. Yes, that’s it. Isn’t she utterly right? Isn’t true bravery about remaining open to the fear, about letting the fear permeate you, even, and not running away from it? Of course you could call this a self-interested response, since I think one of the central themes of this blog is being aware of everything, of all of life. But truthfully I hadn’t thought of it this way before, and when I read Mariam’s post I found myself agreeing absolutely.
Bravery is staring into the sun, even when the brightness of life – and the brightness is precisely because life’s minutes are burning in front of us – is painful. Bravery is not flinching and not looking away, even when the emotion of a moment overwhelms us. Bravery is not hiding, in a thousand ways little and big, from our own lives. Bravery is letting heartbreak gouge your spirit, because you know that that leaves a deeper well for joy.
Bravery is about being conscious of all of life.
Thank you, Mariam, for putting it so beautifully.
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