I’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.