Our society has taught us being brave looks like the loud voice, bold clothing, making a stand or statement. The truth is, most of the time bold steps are not about bravery but are about position and protection. The bolder we are in these contexts often the further we find ourselves from others. We make the grand statement and walk away because the other person’s response is not at all important to us. We wear the bold clothes and pretend that the stares from others don’t matter. We speak our opinion and find ourselves separate from a certain people group. As scary as it is the truth is that those people groups make up part of who we are as humans.
So if we move bravery from separation, opinion and judgement where do we find true bravery? I think it is found in being seen, heard and known for who we truly are. Connecting with the deep longings and fears, opening these to ourselves and others is one of the bravest things we will ever do. The other is stepping toward someone who has demonstrating their position or have hit the self-protect response and choosing to engage and connect with them.
Living brave is being with one another in fear and anxiety. Hearing what another is saying and acknowledging I see you, I hear you. Acknowledgement lights up a part of our brain that is known as the “fear center”. The place that initiates our response to fear. It lights up a region that counter-acts the intensity of fear. We can try and do this for ourselves but it won’t have nearly the impact on our lives as someone else doing this for us. Language like “I’ll be back when you are calm and together” leaves someone alone and processing emotion bigger than they feel they have the ability to. Learning to acknowledge, Wow I can see you are feeling something really big right now and sitting and waiting.
The truth is, relationships are the number one reason for pain (and much of the time this pain comes from the mid-brain, known to many of us as ego) but relationships are the number one reason we truly experience wholeness and healthy living. Creating environments where relationships flourish is vital for our health and well-being and this means learning to be brave. Learning to speak our truth and learning to hear and sit with another person’s truth is the bravest thing we will ever do.
Living brave is an invitation to seeing and hearing and being seen and heard. It’s our opportunity to connect and share experiences as we are truthful about our anxiety and fear and find comfort in being together. There is nothing greater for the human soul than to be found in love. In our weakest, scariest moment being found worthy of love answers every voice of fear that would say something different.
Our brains are amazing at how we process anxiety, fear and pain. There is an initial assault that when we can learn to respond differently to positions us to live seen and known. Becoming curious with what is happening for us keeps us from simply reacting.
Let me give you an example. Hold onto the fact that I experience the greatest anxiety in being seen. It is scary and if I can I will avoid it. So yesterday I went into a clothes store and found this dress. It was bright and colourful and I decided to try it on. I have lost a lot of weight and I don’t really know my size anymore (and I have so many memories of trying something on and finding it is way too small for me) but I took a size 10 anyway. Without having any idea one of the shop assistants see me take the dress and tell the others someone is trying on that dress (it was new in that morning and they were excited to see someone wear it). I put it on and am surprised it fits so well and so I come out of the changing room to show my husband only to find all 4 of the shop assistants all smiling sharing how amazing it looked. Immediately I can feel adrenaline and I wanted to run and hide. But I have learnt to call this an assault. So I stand for a moment in the reality that 4 people are staring at my body and commenting on how good it looked and these 4 were all perfect strangers to me. It was uncomfortable but I allowed myself to feel and hold trust that I was ok. I decided in my anxiety to reach out to one of them and say how uncomfortable it is because I have lost so much weight. Immediately after sharing this, I felt the anxiety lessen (the adrenaline preparing me to run) and she stood there stunned. And with that she opened up to her own struggle and together as a customer and sales assistant we shared a treasured moment of who we each were. That is brave living at it’s finest.
Instead of making judgements, or trying to fight for position, or self-protect, I dream we can really become a people able to sit in one another’s differences, discomforts and pain and in the process have a completely different experience.