In the moments when we wonder why we bother, when we feel futile and small and ridiculous, when we feel misunderstood and mischaracterized, when we are paying a price, it’s in those moments that we learn the truth about being brave: it doesn’t always feel good.

If, as Aristotle supposedly posited, the only way to avoid criticism is to say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing, well, then that’s certainly an option. And sometimes a very alluring option. Be nothing, do nothing, say nothing, watch more television, buy more stuff.

Everyone likes to talk about being fearless, about owning your truth, about standing up and being counted. We sing songs in church about being brave, we blast music in the minivan and shake shake shake it off, we hang prints up in our homes about courage, we talk about brave people or follow them on social media until we somehow make ourselves believe that we ourselves are somehow brave.

I think we like to talk a lot about being brave because the actual doing of it is so freaking terrifying. And tiring. And ordinary.

It’s my belief that true fearlessness comes from living loved. When we find our worth and our value in Christ, then, as the Psalmist wrote, what can man do to us? I don’t think we can be a people-pleaser or an approval-addict AND be brave with our lives. Perhaps that’s why fearlessness or bravery starts with our identity first, it’s the deep well from which we draw living water, enough for today.

I believe that bravery is born in the quiet and ordinary moments long before it’s seen by anyone else. Sometimes it’s as simple and devastating as the moments no one else will ever see – the moments of daring to be honest with our own self, of laying down our excuses or justifications or disguises, of asking ourselves what we really want, of forgiveness, of honesty, of choosing the hard daily work of restoration, of staying resolutely alive when every one else is just numbing themselves against life. These are why our friends matter so deeply: they are witness to the sacred secrets. Not all secrets are terrifying things, some of them are beautiful and transformative.

But then come moments – those turning point moments, when you know it matters more than anyone else would know from the outside.

The “yes” you need to say,

the “no” you need to enforce,

the truth you need to speak,

the life you dare to imagine,

the risk you take,

the art you create,

the establishment you defy,

the danger you face,

the living out of what you profess.

Those moments are our turning points because when we look back on them, we say and then something changed.

That is true. Usually it’s us, we’re the ones who change. We take another tentative step out onto the water, a bit further away from the boat of our safety. And we do it alongside of each other, hand in hand, never alone.

I have learned the hard way that we usually can’t be brave on our own.

The ways we connect with each other might be quite typical – Sunday morning services or school pick-ups or bible studies at church or school or work or afternoon walks. Or more typical to our generation – Facebook, Twitter, blogs, podcasts, texting. Either way, we don’t feel quite so alone in our moments of choosing brave.

We feel seen, we feel heard, we feel prayer at our back and a sisterhood waiting up ahead of us on the path.

Together makes us braver.

I am surrounded by interesting and dangerous women. Sometimes this is wonderful, other times it’s exhausting, it is always challenging. Because they push me. They push me to think harder, to be more honest, to read more widely, to listen more broadly, to get my hands dirty, to stop compartmentalizing my life, to live more seamlessly. They make me examine my choices and my priorities. They question me, they pray for me. When I grow weary, they hold my arms up and growl “don’t you dare sit down.” These women have stretched my opinions, my theology, my mind, and my heart until I hardly know my own shape anymore.

The funny thing is that they do this just by getting on with it – no sermons, no programs, no big manifestos, just a company of women being brave in ordinary ways, each so different from the other.

They are being brave with their own lives and so, because I am alongside of them, I am learning to be brave, too.

Their lives are a cadence I want to carry:

others first,

pay attention,

open heart,

work well,

rest radically,

open doors,

live prophetically,

make room in your life to be inconvenienced,

challenge,

love well – 

be brave together.

I stumble so often, I get cranky and melodramatic and self-important.

March, they say.

Pick up your one small stone, they say, we’ve got a mountain to move.

It’s a risk. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. There is a price to pay, a cost to be counted. Reorienting your life around what you believe about God and what it means to be truly human and believing every small life or act of justice matters comes with a cost.

We are counting that cost. And it’s worth it. Every time. Even when we’re wrong, even when we screw up, even when we sink beneath the waves and find ourselves scrambling back to the boat, licking our wounds, being brave together is worth it.

It means we get to try again. Together.

brave together :: sarah bessey

edited from the archives

Someday
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  • unconditional love mama bear

    Thank you, dear one. I look forward to meeting you in Raleigh. I am currently reading “Out of Sorts,” and I think you must have been living in my head. Bless you.

  • Jory Micah

    I really love this post, Sarah. Lately I have been doubting myself and second guessing my boldness…Am I too bold? Too annoying? Too in everyone’s face? sort of questions. Thank you for giving me a boost to keep moving forward! Xo

    • CathyLynchLawdanski

      No you are not. You are a breath of fresh air – what the church needs to hear. But many in the establishment, if they can’t bring you down on message (bc you back up what you say Biblically) will criticize your approach, personality & try to crush your heart. Be brave. I am a 57 year old woman who bought into complemntarianism & male authority in the church for years. It is not right. I am sending your posts to my daughters in their 20’s all the time. Don’t let your generation fall into the trap mine did!.

      • Jory Micah

        Thank you for the encouragement and support Cathy! I am glad you are free from complementarian lies.

      • What wonderful encouragement for all of us!

    • You’re doing good work, Jory! Be bold!

      • Jory Micah

        Thanks, Sarah! 🙂

  • Emmersto

    Lawdy! That is a breath of fresh air fantastical magic!

  • CathyLynchLawdanski

    Make room in your life to be inconvenienced. Boy – that is a tough one for me. Will take bravery & lots of love. Thanks for challenging me.

  • Lizzie Goldsmith

    I’ve realized the last couple weeks just how deep I’m stuck in this people-pleasing thing. These words meant so much to me this morning. Thank you, Sarah. <3

    • That’s always been my besetting sin, Lizzie, so I hear you. Learning to break free of it – over and over again – is so hard and good.

      • Krista Fast

        I’m in it, in the thick of it. Weeping terrified and joyful hopeful all at the same time. That I just maybe can be free of this fear of man. Digging in hard to His words, every day because it’s His daily bread. Thank you for your words Sarah! “When we find our worth and our value in Christ, then, as the Psalmist wrote, what can man do to us? I don’t think we can be a people-pleaser or an approval-addict AND be brave with our lives.” There is such strength in encouraging each other. Thank you for this encouragement and wisdom from your experience.

  • Nisha Varghese

    So true Sarah we it’s harder to be brave alone

  • Amen to that. If there’s anything the ways of this world teach us, is that serving/seeking self above “us”, causes a whole lot of damage, brokenness, and pain. May God continue to be revealed through the ways His people come together.

  • Stacey

    WOW! I’ve always been a people pleaser and and it’s gotten me no where. It is so encouraging to know that I am not who “they” the world think I am suppose to be. I am known in my church as the loud, bold, prophetess, but have been in a “rut” lately and not sure how to break free of it. I am so glad I am not alone in this journey. God bless you.

  • Olivia

    “I believe that bravery is born in the quiet and ordinary moments long before it’s seen by anyone else.” Indeed! My past year was filled with the bravery of realizing I can’t do this alone and reaching out in friendship; now I feel the need for internal bravery – keeping my heart open so I can love others better and speak truth.

  • carameredith.com

    I’m speaking at a conference in March …on the theme of bravery …and (dot, dot, dot, ellipses, ellipses, ellipses), I think you just gave me a springboard for what I’m going to speak on.

  • “I am surrounded by interesting and dangerous women. Sometimes this is wonderful, other times it’s exhausting, it is always challenging.” These lines make me so excited and a little tired too. Excited when my eyes are open to seeing God at work. Tired when my eyes are on my own self and what could I possibly do to contribute. A right focus makes all the difference. Your work matters Sarah.

  • Linsey @ Bravehearted Beauty

    Good, good words! I’m goi g to share them with my Bravehearted Beauty friends for sure! Especially loved this line: “I believe that bravery is born in the quiet and ordinary moments long before it’s seen by anyone else.” YES! Thank you for being brave in the quiet and out loud.

  • Yes, the truth really is it doesn’t always feel good. It’s hard and tiring, but oh so worth it. This is beautiful and true. It’s hard and scary but so much better with a few friends along the way.

  • Tara Porter-Livesay

    Nou gen tet ansanm ser’m. (We are like minded and together, my sister).

  • Pingback: truth on a sick day. | courage for a better story.()

  • Mark Smeby

    Love this post!!! Have you seen this? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocX98b4pOMU #Brave

  • “I think we like to talk a lot about being brave because the actual doing of it is so freaking terrifying. And tiring. And ordinary.” Yes, so true. Being brave is something I’m trying to do more of…doing the things I’ve avoided for so long because it’s tiring and scary. Lately, being brave includes shedding the fear/lie that what I have to offer is not worth as much as others. Thank you for your words on bravery, they were encouraging.

  • Isabel McArthur Jones

    And on that note… Love this photo from Return to the Hiding Place’s FB page today.

  • Isabel McArthur Jones

    And on that note, love this photo from Return to the Hiding Place’s FB page today. Super brave film.

  • A Heart Set on Pilgrimage

    This. Such an ‘in-season’ word for me. “…when we look back on them, we say “and then something changed. ” May this indeed be true of my life this year. Thank you for these words.

  • Verity Ramirez

    I have read these words over and over again, to let the truth of them seep deeper. I am in the midst of trying to live out the way my faith looks, after leaving some of the theology of my childhood/college days behind. It is hard, but I was encouraged by the words to find identity in Christ rather than people please (which I am ever guilty of and it has made my transition difficult and emotional). Your words reminded me of the strong friends the Lord placed in my life to embolden me during this ongoing process. May you continue to find your bravery in Jesus.

  • Jennifer Bauman Hungerford

    Being brave IS freaking terrifying. And tiring. And ordinary. My husband and I just went through a year and a half of agonizing discussions with the new pastor and elders, and came to the realization that we don’t have a place in the church that we have called our church home for the last 8 years. Even though we haven’t attended services there for the past three months, one of the elders thought it was his duty to email my husband and warn him about the book I was reading in a book club (Jesus Feminist), as it promoted unbiblical views on roles in marriage. Not only that, but the elders wife met up with another book club woman (a young mom in her twenties) and warned her in person about the book, and also what I might teach because of the book. Since I am considered an “older” woman at the age of 41, I am viewed with more suspicion, because I must surely be leading some women astray from the truth. Out of all of this, the wonderful bit is that the book club, and the women in it, have been such a delight, and so supportive of one another. Your book Jesus Feminist has sparked wonderful conversations, filled with laughter and sometimes tears. Thank you for writing Jesus Feminist!