Are Courage and Bravery the Same Thing

When people here about my journey, the most common reaction or word they use is how brave I am to do this, that and how envious they are of me for actually doing it. I am intrigued by the use of this word – brave. When I think of bravery, I picture refugees leaving their homeland with their children, leaving their possessions behind to risk everything for a better life. I envision soldiers on the battlefield fighting fearlessly for principles of liberty and freedom. I recall African Americans crossing the bridge in Selma facing gunpoint, attending college and putting themselves in harms way to fight for the right to be seen, heard and counted. I am a white, well-educated, American woman that has grown-up surrounded by love, acceptance, good schools, piano and dance lessons, food on the table and the ability to move freely throughout my country and the world I’ve traveled through, thus far. What do I know about bravery? I acknowledge that my life hasn’t been without struggle but show me a human being who hasn’t faced strife, hard times, sickness or adversity at some point in their life. 

I looked up the definition of bravery and it included courageous behavior or character, mental or moral strength to face danger, fear or difficulty. I don’t feel as if I’ve faced danger in my life and there it was – the inclusion of ‘courage’ in the definition of bravery. If you display acts of braveness does that imply you are courageous? Over the last couple of years, I have studied and practiced Brené Brown’s research on vulnerability and shame, specifically her statement that in order to embrace our vulnerability, we must cultivate courage, compassion and connection. She highlights that the Latin root word of courage, is “from the heart” and says that the original definition of the word courage was “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.” I connected so deeply to those three words, Courage, Compassion, and Connection that I tattooed three C’s on my arm to help me embody those concepts on a daily basis. I have made tremendous IMG_5758progress on embracing my vulnerability, living with compassion for myself and others and recognizing the power of connection, but I have a long way to go to tell the story of who I am with my whole heart. That’s why I set off on this journey in the first place.

I think that’s why I’m having a hard time connecting with the fact that people are telling me how brave I am. I’m associating bravery with courage and I’m not able to unravel that story of who I am – wholeheartedly yet. But I am certainly trying and after nearly four weeks of traveling, even in a very civilized country like Spain, I have had times of mental struggle. I have had to deep a little deeper to find the strength to keep walking, find my way, lug my bag up more stairs in a Metro station, figure out where I should go next and how I will get there. I’ve also found myself embracing the ability to sit alone while I eat and enjoy the surroundings I find myself in. I also acknowledge that I haven’t dedicated as much time to self-discovery as I was thinking I would have in this amount of time. I have filled the time with sightseeing, sitting in coffee shops and people watching. But those times have served a purpose, like every moment of our days no matter where we find ourselves. I need to be conscious and honor the bravery that it took for me to start this journey while also recognizing that cultivating the courage to live wholeheartedly will take a bit longer than a month to manifest. I know struggles await me and I will face those times with bravery but most importantly with a sense of humor and a vivid awareness that it brings me closer to living with my whole heart.   

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In my posts, I have chosen pictures that I’ve taken that sparked a thought that either led to the writing in the post or that I feel speak to the content. This post includes a picture that I took from my tour of la Sagrada FamÍlia. Antoni Gaudí’s design of this cathedral was both brave and courageous. He wanted the “Sacred Family” to have a representation that didn’t exist before and dedicated his entire life to making it a reality. Even though the cathedral remains unfinished, it is inspiring to see how many people are continuing his dream today.