Brave people separate themselves from the masses.

When I think about bravery, I think of the nondescript Chinese man, in a white shirt, holding a shopping bag, who stepped into the midst of a tank parade in Tiananmen Square (click here to see the photo).  For a moment, it wasn’t clear what the outcome would be.  Then, the rolling tank came to a stop.  This man found his brave, and stood up not only to the Chinese military, but to the entire political system.  I also think of the men and women who survived the Holocaust.  Or those who fought back at Pearl Harbor, when it was attacked without warning on a soft Sunday morn.  Or those who ran into the burning towers on 9-11.  We may never personally witness or commit such overt acts of bravery, but we are nonetheless called upon to demonstrate courage.  Quite simply, life demands it.

“Show me how big your brave is!” cries singer Sara Bareilles in her anthem single, Brave.  It’s like saying, “Show me how big your heart is!” Show me how big your brave is.  What a challenge – we all have moments, situations, and relationships that demand courage. Sometimes they require action, and sometimes, the bravest thing to do is to do nothing – to choose not to react.

One of my first memories of being brave was when I umpired a girl’s softball league. I was young – maybe 13?  My father had died a few years before; he and I shared a love of baseball, so I was drawn to anything associated with it.  I had a ball/strike counter that I had gotten for free by saving up Bazooka bubble gum wrappers.  I was confident in my ability to call balls and strikes, so I signed up for the job.

I don’t know if it was my first game or my fifth, but in the middle of a game, one of the coaches had an utter fit.  He was screaming at the young girls, screaming at the opposing coach, screaming at parents, and screaming at me.  I watched him impassively, unmoved by his antics.

When he failed to get a reaction out of me, he got louder and closer.  I could hear the murmur of disapproval from the parents behind me – on both sides of the benches.  The game ground to a halt as he approached.  I stared up at him as he drew near, his red face and burly body towering over me like a monster, his mouth wide open, roaring.  I found my brave, and did what I knew a good umpire would do.

“Mr. Renaldo, you’re outta here!” I shouted in a clear, no-nonsense voice, punctuating my order with a strong point in the direction of his bench.  I tossed him from the game.  I knew how to do it because I had seen it on TV, watching professional games with my father, eyes wide open when an angry coach was unceremoniously dismissed by a disgruntled ump.

Mr. Renaldo was so astonished that he stood there, mute.

I turned my back on him, returned to home plate, and cried, “Play Ball!”

Incensed, Mr. Relaldo marched off to the far parts of the baseball diamond and did somersaults.  I ignored him.

We finished the game.  I hopped on my bike, and road home.

I didn’t give it much thought at the time, but it is important to “find our brave” because we will need it.  The world isn’t an easy place and the universe will find ways to test our mettle.  As the saying goes, the toughest steel is forged in the hottest fire. 

That unwelcome fire will arrive in various forms – bullies in the school hallway.  Battling and conquering cancer, as my friend Vicki Flaherty shared last week in her blog (click here to read it).  Confronting your boyfriend of 5 years after you discover that he has been cheating on you the whole time (that would be my story, unfortunately).

In circumstances like these, when people show us their brave, when you see someone standing up for the right thing, challenging a bully, or facing their fears, it’s inspirational.  In fact, courage is contagious.  Don’t you find that to be true?

One of my favorite movie examples of contagious courage comes from the awesome film, Casablanca.  Click here to watch a short clip that demonstrates the power of brave.  One man makes a decision to do something, and leads a metaphorical battle between occupied France and free France in WWII.

I know that you, my wonderful and charming readers, have had your share of challenging situations.  What is your favorite story about bravery – personal or otherwise?  Let’s inspire one another – show me how big your brave is!  

P.S.  Not familiar with the song, BraveClick here to see the live version – just Sara and her piano alone on stage – that’s pretty darn brave in itself, don’t you think?



    • Hazel

    • 11 years ago

    I don’t do brave. My go-to move has always been to walk away and ignore things I didn’t like – I ignored the school bully and it wore him down so much he asked for a truce. I walked away from the work colleague who swore at me – he came around an hour later to apologize.
    It doesn’t always work, and standing up in front of people to talk was overwhelmingly intimidating when I was fresh out of school. I am Deliberative (Strength #3), so overpreparing is my best move in that situation. Now I can happily stand up and talk to a room full of experts on a topic that I am comfortable with, partly due to practice, partly because if I am properly prepared then very little can go wrong – I have the option of saying ‘I don’t know, does anyone else have any comments on that topic’.
    I don’t have to be brave if I take along someone else with whom to share the possible horror. I don’t have to be brave if I overprepare. I don’t have to be brave if I am absolutely sure I am right.

    I always suspected you were a little scary – ejecting a coach from the stadium at 13! I don’t have to be brave if I have brave and scary friends.

      • Maureen Monte

      • 11 years ago

      Hi Hazel! Oh my gosh, I laughed out loud at your last line. I wouldn’t actually call it a stadium… this was a very small town, a baseball field in the middle of nowhere. :-) So don’t give me too much credit!

      And see, one of the things I like about this dialogue is that what is brave for one person is different for another. Brave is unique just like our strengths are unique. I love your approach. All that matters is that it works… Like I said, doing nothing may be the very best (and bravest) thing you could do.

      I know your work, and I could NEVER do what you do – I wouldn’t have the courage – talk tech talk with experts. NEVER. :-) So… just like beauty, brave is in the eye of the beholder!!
      Thanks for coming out to play!

    • Hazel

    • 11 years ago

    Maureen, brave is all about perspective, maybe it is just about using your lesser strengths which takes more courage than using your top 5.
    I have heard stories from soldiers of what most people would consider to be brave acts, and they got medals, but they didn’t feel that they had been brave, they were just doing what needed to be done.
    I am sure there are people who have felt they were brave by doing something that most people wouldn’t even notice. Bravery stretches us. Another thought provoking blog, thank you.

      • Maureen Monte

      • 11 years ago

      Hi Hazel! Your thought provoking comments have caused me to think about it more from a strengths perspective as well. I do believe you’re right – people do it without thinking – wouldn’t everyone “do that?” Very much a strengths statement.

      For example, bravery might come in the form of Restorative – there is a problem and I’m going to fix it! Or Responsibility – it’s the right thing to do. Or Command + Self-Assurance (ie Clint Eastwood – “Go ahead, make my day.”) Or Activator (do it now) or Deliberative (removing the desired outcome – they want a response from you – I like it.) I think there are multiple ways to climb the mountain with your strengths – and all of us will do it differently. Bravery included! And I love the visual of bravery stretching us…. thanks for your excellent observations!

  1. Maureen, great post! I can so see you at 13 doing just what you described. Seems brave now. My guess is at the time it felt like doing what you were supposed to do. Probably some major brave given a big burly coach yelling and acting all tough. I wonder if he remembers that.

    I remember a point in my life when I was a few years older than you in your story. I was probably 15 or 16. My grandmother lived with us and was dying of cancer. My parents had to go somewhere and the Hospice nurse had left…I stayed alone with my grandmother. I was so afraid she would be in enough pain that I’d have to give her the morphine. I didn’t have to. The courage it took for me to overcome my fear of her being in pain and having to take action is what made that feel like bravery to me.

    To me, Brave is when you get that knot in your stomach that is fear and you move through it to do what you know is right.

      • Maureen Monte

      • 11 years ago

      Hi Vicki! Oh my gosh! I so admire your courage!! That must have been so frightening – frankly, I couldn’t have done it. I just can’t do medical. I can in an emergency – blood and stuff doesn’t bother me in an emergency – but I *HATE* hospitals, medical, IV’s, etc – anything like that. Thinking about your marvelous example gives ME a knot in my stomach…

      I love that you were able to show me how big your brave is… and what a memory to have – imagine how grateful your grandmother was to have you there.

      As for Mr. Renaldo… what an interesting question (that’s not his real name by the way – I do remember the name and am tempted to google him!) does he remember doing it? I bet he doesn’t… but who can say?

      If you’re taking over the world in NY, I want to wish you the best my friend – can’t wait to hear about it! Onward, my BRAVE FRIENDS!

  2. Hihi, dude get’s told off by a thirteen year old.., that must have been a wonderful sight to behold. Brave, indeed! And what an article… Makes you stop and think, the best kind.

    I have to think hard for something brave. I do not consider many acts as brave, others, however, do. Like owning and living on a ship. Going for a trip around the world (for a year), bungy jumping. Moving to Belgium. Building a new home… And those are the big ones.

    Yes, OK, stuff that made me dig deep… visiting my dad in prison, that took a lot. Also, visiting him in the hospital with the thought he’d be a depending handful the rest of his life. But, being rewarded by an amazing recovery.
    My dad.., that’s a story best kept for an off-line conversation.., but sticking by him, supporting him, listening to him, keeping faith.., being a son.., that’s by far the bravest thing I ever did.

    And it was rewarding to no end.

    Pfff.., writing the above was brave enough… I do need to find that place where I found courage like that and dig into it.

      • Maureen Monte

      • 11 years ago

      WOW. I am absolutely stunned. I was nodding my head, yup, move to Belgium – that took brave, new house, – that took brave… Visiting your dad in prison – that stopped me in my tracks. And an amazing recovery after an illness, and sticking by him, supporting him, being a son – I am so proud of you, my friend. You definitely “showed me how big your brave is!” Look forward to that conversation about your father someday.

      Don’t be afraid of that place where your courage grows. You’ve already done it. Like anything else, this takes practice…. and you can’t swim without getting wet. Thanks again, Rogier, for setting an example for us all.

  3. Oh wow, you guys make me feel really humble that I have the chance to observe and interact with you ! :-).
    My recent brave was to walk and introduce myself to daughter of my boyfriend, despite the indications that she isn’t thrilled by me :-P. Worked out fine at the end.

    Or going to UK to work an aupair (at 21) with English containing only the sentences like : Hi, my name is Lydia.I am from Slovakia :-D…I like being brave – it squeeze the best out of me under pressure!
    I am very much opposite to Hazel :-D so the preparation before the presentation is only to know the main areas on the topic I am giving, I can better engage people in the topic that way. Have a great weekend and looking forward to the next article!

      • Maureen Monte

      • 10 years ago

      Hi Lydia! I am sorry for my late response – I missed this notification when I was on vacation. Please forgive me!

      I *LOVE* your BRAVE story. And if anyone can charm someone, it is you. Time and kindness often go a long way in these sorts of situations and I can totally see you pulling that off.

      I am so impressed with the fact that you went to the UK without knowing the language… and I am sure you were an awesome au pair.

      Indeed, I think you and Hazel would form a great partnership – she can help in areas where you are less strong, and vice versa. More to come via our interview!!! Thanks for sharing, Lydia.

  4. Maureeeeeeen! =)
    Once agaaaain… your blog is beautiful in many ways!!! Thank you for sharing, really thaank you… and here my favorite brave story:

    1. The first and the main one is JESÚS. Imagine a man that knows since the beginning what will be his end… but He really knows that end will be worth!!!
    2. A personal one… let me think… maybe every time I have the opportunity to be in the worship group at church… for me… it is a very challenging moment… I am a kind of shy person and being at the front of the whole church is for me a moment where I need to focus why I am there and who I am there for!! =)

    jacob =)

      • Maureen Monte

      • 10 years ago

      Jaaacobbbb! :-) Welcome! So good to see you here! Jesus is a great example of BRAVE and showing what he stood for. He didn’t take the easy way out… I like your personal example is well – each of us are challenged by different things and each of us must overcome those challenges in our own way. Good for you for finding a way to do that! Thanks again for contributing to our peer learning – and I have to say – Shy is NOT what I would have gained from your own writing that I’ve seen. This is why conversations are good – we get beneath the skin to further appreciate the rock stars around us! Onward!