Brave is a Choice

I’m not exaggerating when I say my life feels more like a Lifetime movie than reality.

My dad died eight hours after giving birth to my first kid.

My husband battled one kind of cancer the year we were engaged and died from another kind a month before our kid number two was born.

I live with anxiety and depression and sometimes suffer from debilitating panic attacks.

And then there are the smaller, but equally traumatizing moments of life: the time I had H1N1 while my husband had meningitis or the time he had a severe case of appendicitis the day I got in a car accident or the year we couch surfed because what we though was an electrical fire on apartment move in day turned out to be an apartment scam.

That’s not even counting the kinds of yucky days everyone experiences.

The struggle to get through the work day when you’re sick.
The isolation of living thousands of miles away from family.
The fears of starting a new career or finding that first job out of college.
The disappointment of another romantic relationship or friendship ending.
The pain of life not turning out how you had hoped or expected.

On my worst days, I wonder what happened. When did I draw the short straw and who allotted all this extra trauma and stress to me? How on earth will I live to old age when I had already experienced more trauma and loss by 30 than most people ever will?

I try not to resent the people that hear my story, gasp, and exclaim, “You are so brave! I could never handle all that!”

The only way I handled it all is because I had to.

Courage is not the same as being fearless. Choosing to live bravely means that you pack up your fears and bring them with you, knowing that some discomfort now is worth the healing and growth that will result from the decision to keep moving forward.

My friend Niki Hardy recently released the book Breathe Again: How To Live Well When Life Falls Apart and included some of my thoughts on what it really means to live courageously:

“With every difficult situation, you have a choice: to run away or to face the hard thing. Each time you choose the brave thing and walk through the difficult situation, you are guaranteed to grow in character, find hope sooner, and experience more freedom from fear than you would have if you had avoided the struggle.”

There’s another reason I cringe when people call me brave – it tells me they believe they are not brave. As Niki says,

“Brave isn’t who we are or are not. We can’t buy it on eBay or find an extra stash of it under the mattress. Brave is the choice we make when we come face-to-face with hard. It’s what we do when we’re staring down pain and heartache, our dreams are blowing away in the harsh winds of change, and we choose to step out toward life and living. It’s brave because there is always an easier, safer option.”

Brave is not a genetic disposition, it’s a choice.

It is an intention to do what is right, what is healing, and what is good, even when it is hard.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it as often as it needs saying: anyone can be courageous.

Niki’s book Breathe Again is full of inspirational and encouraging stories, but my favorite part is the reflection questions. So much of moving forward through a stressful moment in life is stopping to take inventory, be honest about how you are feeling and handling things, and taking intentional steps towards what needs to be done.

Take a moment today to think:

  1. What challenge are you facing right now?
  2. What are a few things you can do to step towards healing and growth in this area?
  3. What’s one thing you’ll do today to live bravely?

Your next step might simply be to consider this new definition of living bravely as a choice.

Or maybe you’re going to take some time to think through your next steps (you might find my post, Anyone Can Be Courageous to be helpful).

Maybe this has been the swift kick in the pants to do what you’ve been feeling convicted of lately.

Whatever choosing to live bravely looks like for you today, be sure to add a copy of Niki Hardy’s Breathe Again to your toolbox!

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