I hear it all around me. I can’t seem to go one day without over hearing someone saying to someone else that they be strong or be brave.
It seems to be the well-meaning phrase we say at funerals, hospitals, over broken legs and broken hearts. When you get a nasty cut or you wake your mama afraid of the thunder.
But what is bravery?
Over and over I have been questioning what our society calls bravery and strength. A child is shushed when they are hurt and told to be brave. A girl is hugged by friends and told to be strong with her broken heart.
I get it. I’ve said those same things.
But I can’t help but wonder..does being strong mean you can’t cry when you are scared? That you can’t weep and tremble and and be afraid? That you can’t be sad and be a mess? Does strength showcase itself by never having imperfections or weakness?
Does being brave mean you have to ride a white horse and brandish a gleaming sword? Never doubting yourself, feeling lonely, or wanting to hide under the bed (and then, actually, hiding under the bed, all day)?
When I’m told that I should “be strong,” am I being encouraged to be vulnerable and raw, honest and open in ugly situations? Or am I actually being told to put away my tears, to hide my fears and sweaty hands, to fake a smile and pretend?
Is strength really shown by not crying, not feeling? By powering through in impossible situations? Not giving into pain?
…Or is being brave more about that glimmer of hope after the worst possible news? The golden light of the sun after the world’s longest night? The way you continue on even though you can’t figure out how?
Is being strong more about crying in front of that person than putting on a “brave face?” Isn’t strength found more in the pain of putting one foot in front of the other than the stoic face of someone holding it all in?
Is strength more about your inner self and less about your actions?
(photo by me)