I’ve written quite a few words about bravery. In fact so many it seems I’ve lost sight of what it may mean.
So here’s a little tutorial, for the good of us all:
Oxford dictionary defines brave or bravery like this:
- ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.
- endure or face (unpleasant conditions or behavior) without showing fear.
Synonyms for brave: endure, put up with, bear, withstand, go through, face, confront, defy, courageous
Being a word-lover, I am often over-zealous about exact meanings and innuendo. What some may use as synonyms, I see as distinctly different. So it is with the words brave and courageous.
The differences are subtle. Both refer to withstanding, facing, or enduring those things that scare us. Both allude to being unafraid. Both conjure up visions of warriors, mama-bears (both 4-legged and human) and firefighters. Both are qualities to which many aspire, whether in the physical or in the emotional worlds.
But look more closely at the word courage, again according to Oxford:
- The ability to do something that frightens one.
Synonyms for courage: pluck, valor, boldness, bravery, daring, audacity (my personal favorite)
Do you see the difference? It may seem like splitting hairs, but there are two words for a reason. The word brave refers to a frame of mind, the ability to look danger right in the eye without blinking. A person who is brave will face opposition without a weapon and accept the outcome. When we are brave, we don’t hide the Truth, our relationship with Jesus, or our stand on controversial topics. We understand and accept the outcome – the consequences of who we are and what we believe.
If we are courageous, however, we will do something that scares us. We don’t simply accept the inevitable and face it stoically. We don’t simply hide the truth, we spread it. We share the Good News and our relationship with Jesus with all we know, without hesitation or apology. And we stir up the controversial to make a case for those who have been marginalized and disenfranchised by a system that repeats we are right, we are right, we are right – repeating it to drown out or silence those who would disagree.
When we are brave (and thank goodness, with the strength of Jesus always with us, we can be), we are ready to face and endure criticism of our faith, mocking tones, and feeling misunderstood. We are prepared. It doesn’t catch us off-guard and we have developed a strong stance, resilient, balanced, solid.
When we are courageous, (and thank goodness, with the strength of Jesus always with us, we can be) we can do something. We don’t just wait for the battle to come. We storm right out wearing the armor of God.
Sometimes we need the armor to simply reveal the truth – creating discomfort for those who want to pick and choose the parts of the Bible they want to either ignore or champion. Sometimes we need the armor to speak the truth, defending the name of Jesus from those who choose to disparage His life and His plan with snark and distain.
I often find, however, that I need His armor the most when those most like me in faith are least like me in life. When those who claim the precious Word of God use it to knock down instead of build up. When those who profess to love God show so little of His love because they are hell-bent to show their list of “shoulds” and “don’ts”. I need the armor of truth and righteousness more often when I see Christians stand with arms akimbo, shouting down the “wayward” girl instead of the evil one who stands behind her, laughing. I need audacity and God’s full armor to love the man who others find unlovable or, Heaven forgive us, unforgiveable.
Good golly, Miss Molly.
As I find my own courage, practice and embrace it, those of you who know me well may be surprised. It may seem too loud. It may sound cocky. I’ll get it wrong – a lot. When I swing for the fences, I may end up in left field.
But, my lovelies, I don’t want to be weak or comfortable any more. I want to have a fearless spirit full of power and love. I want to stand firm in the faith, with armor all greased up and shiny, ready for Him. And sometimes Jesus will ask us to be brave. To endure the pain and insults – to let His armor fend off the sting of the enemy.
But sometimes He’ll ask us to be courageous – to go and do. To dive in without regard for survival and keep His name front and center in the important matters of life and love.