Be Courageous by Kate Brunner


Kate close up at Llyn MorwynionI’ve been told I am a brave person. I hear this lately in the context of publishing my writings and of traveling and living abroad. It always pulls me up short when I hear it, though. Am I?, I find myself asking internally. Am I, really? I spend time meditating on this humongous concept- Courage with a capital C, bravery, being courageous- and now I want to explore this notion of courage more deeply as a spiritual feminist.

Definitions of courage point to the possessor of courage having strength; not necessarily physical strength, but strength of mind and heart. Those who are courageous, by definition, also share a willingness to cross the threshold, to venture forth, and then to persevere in the face of challenges frock with fear, danger, difficulty, and the unknown. Feminist history is filled with examples of the power of courage. So, I would wager, are our religious histories across traditions. And where the two cross? Courage in spades. These are people I read & study about, look up to, wish I could one day emulate. When I think of courage, I think of Kate Sheppard & Meri Te Tai Mangakahia, Christabel & Emmiline Pankhurst, Jane Addams & Sojourner Truth. I think of Malala Yousafzai, Ruslana Lyzhychko, Wangari Maathai,& Rusudan Gotsiridze. Perhaps this is why I struggle to reconcile those icons of courage with the idea that I, too, am courageous. Am I?, I ask myself again. Because I have yet to act THAT bravely in the world.

But small, everyday, or personal acts of courage are still what they are- bravery in action, fear overcome, truth spoken, authenticity & love brought just a tiny bit further into the world. There are big name feminists doing amazing things out there. I love them. There are also women all over the world committing unseen, daily acts of bravery that breathe life into feminism; that cause the spirit of feminism to continue to grow and change. And I love them, too.

So, maybe I am. Maybe I really am courageous. Maybe when I send my words out into the world, I am brave. Maybe when I breathe deep and pray through another airplane take off, in order to experience another part of the world, I am brave. Maybe the next time someone tells me I am brave, I should stop asking “Am I, really?” and say thank you instead. Thank you for reminding me of my own inherent courage. Thank you for reminding me to use it mindfully.

You are brave. I am brave. When we wake up and step out and live the life we choose, when we do not accept an oppressive status quo, when we question even the smallest injustice, when we dare to claim the authentic path we desire to tread, when we speak our truth—we are courageous. We affect change. Maybe not a constitutional amendment or a sudden, drastic paradigm shift, but we venture forth and persevere in our sphere of influence. We face fear and engage in the pursuit of overcoming it. And that is brave. That makes us courageous.

I ask you to consider the role of courage in your own life. Who does courage call to mind for you? How do you define bravery? And after you’ve considered that, press on. Get deeper. Look within. What does courage look like in you? What was your last courageous act? What will be your next one?

Kate Brunner is a writer, healer, ritualist, & member of The Sisterhood of Avalon, studying at the Avalonian Thealogical Seminary. She is an American expat, living in Queensland, Australia and homeschooling her children, with the world as their classroom. Before motherhood, Kate earned a Bachelor of Arts from Tulane University, while studying Economics, International Relations, & Religion. She served four years as a logistics officer in the US Army, after which, Kate became a doula and holistic birth educator.  She is a regular contributor to The Sisterhood of Avalon’s online journal, The Tor Stone and is active in the Red Tent Movement. Kate volunteered in Houston as a presenter for monthly Red Tents and semi-annual women’s retreats before relocating overseas. She enjoys international travel, perfecting her cooking, reading great books, & having fascinating conversations with friends, old or new.

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Categories: Feminism, General

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8 replies

  1. beautiful and amazing!

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  2. Good questions.
    Who is courageous? First thought that comes to mind is my mother or anyone who has ever battled cancer.
    How do I define bravery? I think there are two important elements to bravery- love and perseverance. And then you have to factor in continuing to love and persevere, even when it looks like everything you have worked for is not going to be successful. I think the lack of defined outcome also gives bravery that foolishness element.
    What was your last courageous act? Convincing myself that my life does have meaning.
    What will be your next one? Not sure. Chaperoning my son’s ballroom dance class this evening?

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  3. Hi Kate, it’s your gift, just part of your makeup I think, being blessed with courage, a sort of “seize the day,” and since it’s normal for you, you can’t quite see it. I’ll just take two questions: “Who does courage call to mind?” and “How do you define bravery?”

    On courage as regards aging. There is a playful sort of courage which a former colleague taught me as he was getting older. He used to commute on a train to the University where I worked. The train chugged alongside a cemetery for part of the trip, and thus every single day he had to be reminded intensely of his own mortality. I remember him teasing me as a feminist, saying that one of the burial plots had a headstone that gave the man’s name and then, literally, other tombstones next to it that said HIS WIFE, HIS SON, HIS DAUGHTER, HIS DOG. I hope he made all that up, and maybe not, but anyway he had me laughing. It takes real courage to be playful with such things as tombstones, as you get older, along with a true love of life perhaps.

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  4. I think women everywhere are incredibly courageous. Seeing the grinding misogyny and inequality around us and STILL doing things to change things for ourselves, and other girls and women; dropping everything to be there when a family member has an accident; continuing to see someone with chronic ailments and addictions, when everyone else has fled and, especially, sharing those moments of courage with others.

    I believe Love is eternal, and Hope really helps get us moving, but the only attribute that puts them together is Courage. Let’s all be brave together, because the 21st century is definitely a time for bravery, not despair.

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  5. Courage and bravery are intertwined for me. Courage is being there for those we love while also taking care of ourselves. Courage is also standing up for what we believe is right, no matter what others may think of us. Courage for me was moving from California to Maine with my husband without having jobs lined up. Courage was also facing up to the reality that I was married to an alcoholic with liver disease and then deciding what to do to take care of myself, which included going to Al-Anon and getting counseling. In my case I chose to stay until he died. I stayed for a variety of reasons, including love and financial considerations, but I also think it is courageous to leave a bad relationship.

    I also was courageous when I decided to leave my job and go to grad school full time when I was in my 40s. Then after I got a master’s degree in history I went to seminary and got another master’s degree.

    The last courageous thing I did was go to California last year and help my mother pack up her things and then I drove her and her pets to Maine and moved them in with me. I should add that she took the money from the sale of her home and had an addition built to my tiny house, so we each have our own space. We are a lot alike and we get along well, but even so living with my mother takes a lot of courage, especially since we were both used to being on our own and doing things our own way!

    When you think about it day to day living takes a lot of courage, so we are all courageous!

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  6. People always told me that I was a courageous woman. But I always felt that I just did what had to be done. Until one year I realized that in my family fear was NOT okay, and, as a result, I was very good a repressing it. So where other people felt the fear before they acted, I didn’t. Now I feel the fear, and I still do what has to be done. I think now I’m courageous.

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  7. This is such an important lesson for a lot of women. The things that we accomplish in every day life do make us courageous, and I think taking note of that will make us continue to be brave and even take risks. I feel like many of us question if we really are brave, and if we look at the small interactions or problems we solve we can see how much power and bravery we have inside.
    Great post, definitely something we all need to stop questioning ourselves on!

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  8. Throughout this, I thought of my little niece and nephew. I believe everyone can be courageous and brave. There are many forms of courage and braveness. For my nephew, when he had to get two big staples for a head injury, he was brave enough not to cry. For my niece, when faced with her fear of spiders, she has to be brave enough to know that with a little piece of napkin she can simply kill that spider and that it won’t hurt her.
    You explained it best with the sentence, “We face fear and engage in the pursuit of overcoming it. And that is brave. That makes us courageous.” Our own individual fears are what can cause us to be brave and courageous. And somebody else’s own fears/phobias/uncertainties may shape US as brave and courageous. For example I’m not afraid of heights so going on rollercoasters at Magic Mountain is no big deal, yet someone who is terrified of heights may look at me and say, “Wow, you’re so brave!” Perhaps you didn’t see yourself as being courageous because you thought of your accomplishments or behaviors to be “no big deal” or just a part of your identify, but all the people that told you “you’re brave” or “you’re courageous” made you see yourself in a different light so that you could accept that you ARE brave and that you ARE courageous.

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