What brave looks like

A while back I was talking to someone about power struggles and leadership.  At the time I was new in my position (this was a couple of positions back) and, just by being present, had upset the power dynamics in the office. There was a lot of boundary testing and partially disguised storming.  It was a challenging time for everyone.

One day I was describing a specific work situation to a friend. I ended with a list of possible next steps: I could (a) be confrontational and force a conversation which may or may not benefit me in the long run OR I could (b) trust that I’d already handled the immediate situation appropriately and stay the course…if I continued to make right decisions, then I should trust that all would work itself out.

My friend (pithy by nature) responded, “The second is probably the braver choice.”

It was the “braver” that caught my attention.

In conflict and power struggles, we often have to decide whether to speak up or to endure.  Speaking up is often considered the “brave” thing to do; consider Sara Bareilles’ Brave:

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave…

Or John Mayer’s Say:

Living out the same old moment
Knowing you’d be better off instead,
If you could only
Say what you need to say

And, for sure, sometimes bravery looks like that.  However, sometimes speaking up can be self-indulgent or impulsive.  Sometime being brave means staying to course, being patient, and not running away.  Sometimes, staying the course requires more self-confidence and more faith in one’s plans and obligations than blowing up the apple cart.

Endurance is often portrayed as the grimier, more thankless sort of bravery.  It tends to hurt, like in the “Heartbreak Scene” in Bridges of Madison County.

Or in Paul Simon’s Cool, Cool River: 

And these streets
Quiet as a sleeping army
Send their battered dreams to heaven, to heaven
For the mother’s restless son
Who is a witness to, who is a warrior
Who denies his urge to break and run

Who says: Hard times?
I’m used to them
The speeding planet burns
I’m used to that
My life’s so common it disappears
And sometimes even music
Cannot substitute for tears

But it’s still brave and important and often the right way to go.  We all want to be brave, we just need to make sure that we value the different expressions of bravery, and call upon the right one in the right moment.


Featured Image: My own (Laura Gogia, flickr.com)

One Comment Add yours

  1. Meg Mulrooney says:

    I agree. Sometimes you have to be brave enough to stay the course and “live to fight another day.” The other phrase that conveys this idea of bravery is “pick your battles.” Women in leadership roles often have to consider whether blowing up even a little apple cart will get them fired. (I wish we had metaphors that weren’t militaristic, btw.)


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