It came mid-conversation – actually mid-sentence – interjected between comments of a context I can’t even recall.
“You are so brave,” a friend remarked during a recent discussion. I couldn’t be quicker to brush it off – literally – with a swipe of my hand and roll of my eyes.
Because the term brave has just never had a place in my personal vocabulary. I mean in my mind, the word alone conjures images of stunt doubles and superheroes complete with capes. It has never been applicable to mere mortals, so why the hell would someone use it to describe me?
Needless to say, the comment got me thinking. I spent the rest of the day mentally wrestling the word brave in an attempt to understand its definition. Aware that it obviously involved something other than Clark Kent implications, I decided to do some informal research. I took to email and social media, polling family and friends, asking quite simply what they thought it meant to be brave.
The answers provided presented a spectrum of logic, with several contradictions intertwined along the way. Some declared that bravery was “selfless,” while others indicated there was inherently something “selfish” about it. There was talk about it requiring action even though you were “shaking in your boots.” Other comments pointed adamantly to the “absence of fear.”
I mulled over the responses for a while. Especially one exchange that questioned the difference between the seemingly similar notions of courage and bravery. And as I continued to grapple with the concept, I found myself circling back to several key points. So while I’m no Miriam Webster, here is my unofficial definition of what it means to be brave:
Bravery requires a type of tunnel vision, a focus so set on the end result because it’s spurred from a deep, insatiable need. It may be personal or cause driven, but it takes a conviction that cannot be manufactured or even motivated. Unlike courage – which can be summoned – bravery is instinctual. It kicks in prompting action, without the need for contemplation about what may or may not be.
Now it is my opinion that because of this disregard for potential consequences, bravery can often be misinterpreted as selfish behavior. Because those who are brave are so driven by what they feel is necessary that they’re not concerned with what others might say. The one risk they’re willing to assume is that their efforts could fail and they do so without a second guessing. To them, it’s a small price to pay for what they know others are depending on them to achieve.
Of course, contrary to popular belief, bravery also has nothing – at all – to do with bravado. There is no ego present, no pride to be had when one feels they’re just doing what has to be done.
So it is my conclusion that bravery is both Badass and Beautiful. It spurs from both passion and detachment, and correspondingly leaves no regrets in its path. Its only trail is a model to follow, like an emblazoned cape flapping in the tailwind. Because the brave move quickly, as if there is no time to spare.