50 Shades of Brave

Also known as: Pondering bravery

Yes, the title of this post is a corny play on the title of a book I will never read. But it sounded fitting for this entry, so let me use it.

Yesterday, some friends and I watched Disney and Pixar’s latest animated movie, Brave. I’ve been wanting to watch the movie for the longest time now since I’m pretty much a an of anything Pixar. I really liked the movie — it was a bit different from the other Pixar movies I’ve watched, but I enjoyed it a lot for the accent and the kick-ass lead girl (love her hair!) and the jokes. The movie tugged at the heartstrings too, as expected…but (unfortunately?) not in a way I expected it when I went in the cinema.

I hope this isn’t spoilery, but I guess I was kind of looking for a different kind of brave in the movie. You know, courage. The things that make us tough, the things that helps us face our fear. In Filipino, tapang. Those things.

And now that that got me thinking: what exactly constitutes bravery?

Oh, the questions I ask on a Sunday night. I believe we all have our moments of bravery — our own time to shine, as we call it. These are the moments where we either take a deep breath and soldier on, or take a step back and say “Wait” or run away in fear, thinking of ways to never really face that situation again. It comes in all shapes and sizes, from the moment we were kids until now. It may be when you have to tell your mom it was you who broke the vase because you were running around too much. It may be a moment when you have to speak in front of a class to recite a poem you spent all week memorizing. It may be during a competition you hope to win. A job interview. Going to an event where you don’t know anyone. Saying hi first. Admitting fault. Receiving bad news. Having difficult but necessary conversations. Asking the uncomfortable questions. Taking the first step.

Each moment up there (and more) requires a certain kind of courage. Not the same amount for every moment, possibly, but still, bravery. And where do you get that?

You know what? I have no idea. Sometimes, I think bravery just comes when you’re faced with that moment and you need to decide. *snap* Decide to be brave now or not. You can probably push it later, but you won’t always have the chance to be in that moment again. I think if you’re not used to making the brave decisions, then you will always choose to run away and hope that things fix themselves without you having to be there.

Sometimes, though, brave decisions can seem like they’re not. Like someone saying no to something can either be a brave thing to do because it means standing up for your convictions, but it can also seem cowardly because you’re afraid to take the risk. Or how waiting for something can seem like it’s procrastination, or just refusal to do something because of some kind of excuse. When is it really bravery and when does it cross the line to cowardice?

And then here’s another question: when the time comes when bravery really counts…are you ready? When faced with a situation that requires (extreme) acts of bravery, what will you do after you take that deep breath? Will you know if your choice is really the brave one, or are you hiding behind some form of cowardice?

Oh, the questions I ask. I have no answer, either, quite honestly. Except maybe I know that for things like this…sometimes the heart just knows. How vague and romantic does that sound? It’s just that…I guess I’ve learned to believe that the heart is stronger than I expected it to be, and the world’s standard for bravery is different from what the heart really, really knows.

And…I think that if we should have a real standard for bravery, we should just look at the Cross. What else could be braver than that?

Brutally honest moment? I’m scared. I’m scared because there’s so many things I don’t know, and there’s so many things I want to do but I don’t know if I should do, and it feels like there are so many things at stake…and all I can hear God telling, no, asking me is, Do you trust Me? Over and over again. And all I can answer to this pressing question, arms up in surrender, is Yes.

Journal entry circa 2008, song lyrics from Nichole Nordeman’s Brave

It doesn’t make me less scared. However, I find in the past days that I’m learning more and more about what bravery really is, and often times it’s really scary. It’s strange, but maybe that’s how it works. How can you be brave if you’re not even the least bit scared, right?

So maybe I’m on to something here. Maybe I just need to let God be God despite my desire to both run and take control. Maybe that’s the kind of bravery I am being called to right now — to just keep on trusting even and especially when I do not know what’s going to happen. Be of good courage, He shall strengthen your heart!1

So let me throw this right back at you, the few readers who actually visit and read my blog (and please answer, just so it’s less embarrassing :P). What’s bravery for you?

Oh the questions I ask.

  1. From The Waiting Room series, Pastor Steven Furtick, Elevation Church []

5 thoughts on “50 Shades of Brave

  1. Hmm. Bravery for me is acknowledging the consequences – good or bad – of a particular act, and yet going ahead with it anyway. I haven’t thought much about it the way you have, though, so that’s all I can say about that. :)

    A piece of unsolicited advice, if you will? Just… relax. Take things in stride, those you feel you’re uncertain about, and it will all play out nicely in the end. God – our God – is bigger than these things, so don’t fret. I don’t know how many times I’ve said this, but just Let Go, Let God. :)

    1. Ah, it’s usually the consequences that brings on more brave moments, not just the actual moment. Which also means bravery calls for accountability, too.

      Sometimes I wish I can turn parts of my mind off, just so you know, I won’t have to think too much. But this too shall pass. :) Thanks, Monique! *hugs*

  2. You asked for a comment so here we go. Your post reminded me of something I’ve read about bravery and initially I thought it was from Mere Christianity. I flipped through all my sticky note marks on that book to no avail. Turns out it’s from another book I’ve held off reading for over a month now. Hehe.

    I’ll quote extensively the part which relates to your post so please bear with me. ^_^

    From chapter 4: “Do Not Be Afraid”

    The word “courage” comes from ‘cor’, the Latin for “heart”. And courage is often thought of as a quality of the heart. One “feels” afraid or brave. But Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas saw it primarily as a quality of the mind. It is the courage to see things as they are, to look at danger squarely and clearly. The brave person grasps his or her vulnerability. […] “Fortitude presupposes vulnerability; without vulnerability there is no possibility of fortitude. An angel cannot be brave, because he is not vulnerable. To be brave actually means to be able to suffer injury.” So it’s easy for angels to say, ‘Do not be afraid.’ They could not know what it means!

    “The truly brave man, then, is not the kind who has ‘never known fear’, or the berserker type who works up to a frenzy, or even the highly trained soldier sure of his skill and perhaps conditioned to fight with little or no thought of danger. He is rather the man who measures difficulty and danger realistically, understanding what is involved as far as he can, and controlling in the light of that understanding feelings naturally aroused in the situation, whether they are feelings of fear or exhilaration, of over-confidence or under-confidence.” — Anthony Ross OP

    It follows that courage is the hardest virtue to judge in others, since we cannot easily share their perception of the risks. The courageous soldier has to judge when it is right to fight and when to retreat, though another may judge a courageous decision to be a cowardly one. It is, for example, extremely hard for us to judge whether Pius XII was being brave or cowardly in not more openly condemning the persecution of Jews in the Second World War. We may deeply regret that he did not, and be ashamed of his silence, and yet it is possible that, given his perception of all the factors, this was for him a brave decision. Screwtape is right that courage is the most unambiguously attractive virtue and that no one admires cowardice, and yet it is not always easy to judge which is which. Temperance is a virtue that can easily look unatrractive, a timid fear of celebrating life. Many of those Dominicans drinking wine […] seemed to have thought so! And yet getting blind drunk can never be an example of temperance, though retreating may be an example of courage. And so it is not always easy to recognize true courage, but when one does its beauty is undeniable. And it is difficult to know what is the courageous decision because one cannot exactly assess the risks beforehand. Sometimes one has to take the plunge without being sure of the odds.

    -end quote-

    So the takeaway: (1) It’s probably good to think “a lot” about these things too as stated in that Ross quote. (2) True bravery cannot be easily distinguished so don’t blindly imitate, admire or immediately be inspired by other people’s seemingly brave actions. It’s a case-to-case basis. ;)

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