What Is Bravery?

What does it mean to be brave? What does courage look like? Is it the same as being fearless?

Close your eyes – what images come to mind when you think of being brave?

Are there dragons to battle in your vision? Great daring heroic acts? Are you tough? Strong? Immovable and fearless? Undaunted?

For too long I have thought being brave was about action, not attitude. That if I didn’t conquer foes and climb mountains and do Hard Things, I wasn’t being brave – not really – or doing anything special.

I thought showing weakness, finding things hard or softening my heart towards those who hurt me was the opposite of courage – that it was somehow giving in or giving up. That changing my mind was an act of cowardice. That forgiveness was somehow the easy choice, the fearful person’s way out.

Have courage and be kind. 

Never cruel, never cowardly. 

Two mottos, from two pop culture characters – about as different as can be – Cinderella from the 2015 Cinderella and The Doctor from Doctor Who.

What does kindness have to do with bravery? What does choosing to not be cruel have to do with running away from the Hard Things and being a coward instead?

It’s easy to run. It’s easy to hide. But when we do, someone else always pays the price of our lack of courage. When we dodge the Hard Thing, someone else has to take on what we have avoided.

So instead we do the Hard Thing, we pay the cost. But walking into the fire isn’t the hardest thing life might require of us – those are the moments where we know we require bravery and conviction. It’s the obvious kind of courage. But there’s a deeper kind of bravery, a deeper level of courage, that requires not just our actions to flee from cowardice, but our hearts to be brave as well.

The times in my life that have required the most courage haven’t involved dragons or even particularly daring actions. The things that have required the most of me have involved forgiveness. They have required softening and opening my heart when it would be easier and less brave to harden my heart, to put up barriers and keep everyone out.

Have courage and be kind. 

Never cruel, never cowardly. 

These things take courage because to forgive is to open yourself up to the all the risks of being hurt again. Being kind when you’d rather be cruel, showing weakness when you’d rather look strong, takes all the bravery you have to offer.

But what else can we do, if we are following Jesus? If, like me, you are striving to live your life in a pattern modeled after God’s incredible grace and mercy shown at the cross, what other choice do we have but bravery?

Jesus chose to die on a cross, to look weak, beaten and defeated in front of those who were declared enemies against him and against God. How much courage would it have taken to stand in front of those accusing you, knowing you are innocent, and to say nothing? Knowing it would lead to your death? Why would anyone ever be so recklessly brave?

Of course, we know why Jesus did it. We know his motivations. He died because of his great love for us, to defeat sin, that keeps us apart from God, to reconcile us to him. He died so we could be forgiven, despite everything we have done to hurt and reject him.

When he did all that to save us, what else could we do but be brave and be kind? What else can we do but reject cruelty and run from cowardice?

Have courage and be kind. 

Never cruel, never cowardly. 


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