When you think of the word brave, what images come to your mind? Do you envision a soldier marching into battle or lady Arwen protecting Frodo while escaping ringwraiths in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (see here)? Whether your images of bravery are reality or fantasy, they are likely epic in scale. But what if bravery looks a little different? Can bravery look like this? A little child facing cancer. A woman walking out of a bad situation after years of abuse. What if bravery seems much smaller? What if bravery is approaching someone with whom you’ve had a disagreement and trying to make amends?
Brave acts occur every day. Most of the time, they are small in scope and may be invisible to the world, but carry significance for the person who is reaching out of their comfort zone to do something difficult or new. Bravery can be big and public of course, but I think that most of the time, bravery is found in the small spaces of life. Bravery is in the little things.
Those who know me know that I am no expert on being brave. Many times, I have shied away from a situation because I dreaded it or have been frozen in fear when I should have moved forward. I realized many years ago, that I was beginning to shrink. Not in physical size, mind you 😉, but in the size of my comfort zone. The less I did to stretch its boundaries, the smaller it became. Once I noticed that trend, I began praying that God would help me develop the habit of considering and embracing the things that I was beginning to shy away from. One thing I’m learning is that bravery is often in the small decisions we make every day. Decisions that shape the unseen rhythms and patterns of our lives. For me, this meant talking to someone who intimidated me, learning how to do something new in the IT world, going back to college and learning to ride horses at the ripe ol’ age of 40. Something amazing happened as I began to use the discomfort I felt when faced with a challenge as a catalyst to move forward. It became a habit, and (I confess) is still becoming one.
Being brave comes with risks. There may be times where being brave will make you cry, where you fail at your attempt and are embarrassed as a result of your brave try. There will be times when awkwardness must be embraced and all that can be gleaned from it, discovered. I do not like sitting in an uncomfortable place. But I’m learning that sometimes I don’t have a choice and am clinging to the silver lining of new lessons that are coming, if I don’t give up or rush to get through.
How does all of this relate to the horse world? Well, if you ride horses, you probably already know the answer to this question. At a recent championship horse show, I watched a beautiful young woman ride her horse away from the dressage court where she had a disappointing ride. There she sat, and even though she held her head high, she was holding back tears as she headed down the hill. It’s not easy to put yourself out there and ride in front of others, especially when experts in their sport on their top-notch mounts are watching. Being an equestrian is a humbling journey (right there beside marriage and raising children, in my opinion). To become better, we must learn to deconstruct what we are doing, relearn things that are hard, and be teachable in those moments. It’s uncomfortable. It stretches us quite a bit and may make us feel inadequate at times. Nevertheless, we need to keep going!
In choosing to embrace the new and uncomfortable, we are setting a pattern for our lives. Bravery can’t just be something we put on before we step into the arena. It needs to be incorporated into the pattern of our daily lives. We must take stock of the way we approach things that are uncomfortable or challenging and what we do with feelings of being unsettled. How do we intentionally step through them, even if our efforts look imperfect? The first step in being brave is wanting to grow. Remember, you don’t have to take on something big right away. Start small. After all, bravery is in the small things too.