BRAVE

I was at Redbox the other day looking for a family movie to celebrate the last day of school. I saw an animated film with a red-haired girl on the case entitled Brave. “Hey, look at that,” I said to myself, “Brave is already out on video.” (I had seen the movie trailer in the theater recently.) “Maybe it bombed at the cinema. Maybe it went straight to video. Whatever. I’m getting it.”

Of course when I came into the house waving the disc triumphantly and yelling “I got Brave!” my kids laughed uproariously because I’d done this before – come home with some old, lame version of a new movie. Last time it was Thor — not the new, hunky film but some low-budget movie that Redbox thought it could trick me into renting because it had the same name. Well, okay, they did trick me, not just once but twice. We didn’t even bother watching the movie.

It did get me thinking about being brave, though. Because I need to be brave right now and I’m not. I know what to do but I’m not sure I have the courage to do it. To stand in my own truth, immovable. Like my hands, this morning on the acupuncture table. My acupuncturist was working on my shoulders with his little laser thing and he asked, “How do your shoulders feel when things aren’t right?” Tight and tense. “Okay, multiply that tight, tense feeling by four, and feel it in your whole body.” This is not pleasant. But I do feel curiously strong. “Now focus that feeling in just your hands. How does it feel?” Powerful. Immovable. “That’s the lesson for you right now. Our bodies will tell us what we need in the moment. How do you think that sensation in your hands could show up in your life?” Standing in my own truth. Immovable. Brave.

I went to the temple this afternoon. I sat with authoritative hands on my head and over and over again, heard words of truth and blessing and promise. My spirit soaked up those promises like dew because I recognized that for me, today, those powerful words were an infusion of courage, of perspective, of peace. I know what I know. Even when I am afraid to know it, I know.

This evening, I went to Powell’s Bookstore in downtown Portland to hear Terry Tempest Williams read from her new book, When Women Were Birds. Now, there is a brave woman. She read about how Mormon women journal their lives and quoted her polygamous grandmother. She explored the mystery of her mother’s blank journals, three shelves full, and looked deeply at the notion of Voice. She said she’s done only two things religiously in her life: kept a journal and used birth control. She read a long bit about abortion rights, which drew applause from the Portland crowd. And I listened and loved her beautiful words and wished I were brave enough to be the kind of Mormon woman who would choose to be childless because that was the only way to stand in my own truth, or who would champion a political cause even though it would likely garner ill will amongst my Mormon peers. Brave means being willing to stand alone. It means standing in my own truth, even when everyone around me disagrees. Brave is voicing the truth, no matter the consequences.

We go in and out of brave. Apparently, even the brave do. I was heartened to hear Terry tell of how long it took her to face the feelings that arose when she discovered that the journals her mother had bequeathed to her were all empty. Years, she admitted. Sometimes it takes a long time to conjure the courage to acknowledge the truth. To say it. Or write it. To do the hard thing. To stand immovable – shaking in our boots, perhaps — but standing, nonetheless, in Truth. Brave isn’t fearless. Brave is being true to the truth despite our fear. It’s telling the truth to ourselves first, then voicing that truth to others, no matter what they think of us or do to us. Sometimes brave is being silent. Like all those blank journals.

I don’t know if you ever feel brave in the middle of a brave act. When you raise your hand in Sunday School and contest a bit of Mormon folklore. When you march in the Gay Pride parade. When you choose to have a child. Or choose not to. When you choose to leave. Or to stay. To speak up. Or stay silent. Brave comes wrapped in fear. But it’s a celestial gift, worth the risk of opening. Because at the heart of Brave is Truth.  And Truth is the only thing that can make us free.

 

Are you brave? How? Who or what inspires courage in you?

About Lisa G.

(Poetry Board, Blog Team) is mother to six and grandmother to nine and a half. She lives in the Pacific Northwest and loves travelling, reading, napping in puddles of sun, strawberries and dark chocolate, and most of all, Jesus.

39 thoughts on “BRAVE

  1. Excellent post, Lisa.

    I just went to see Brave yesterday with my kids and thought it was wonderful. Not what I expected, especially with the title “Brave.” Based on the title, and even the trailer, I’d expected a movie about a girl who saves the village, who goes into battle, a Mulan-esque version of female power. But no: the movie is mostly about a girl and her mother negotiating their relationship with one another. (Interesting also in light of your description of Terry Tempest Williams and her life long negotiation with her own mother.) Sometimes engaging in honest relationships with the people we love, despite our differences, takes the most courage of all.

  2. Wow, what a coincidence to read this post this morning! We read about the movie Brave in the paper yesterday morning. Dh came home from work last night with what we thought was the same movie from Redbox, and boy were our kids beside themselves with disappointment when it wasn’t the same movie. I’m glad it was just us who made that mistake!

    I’ll have to think more on the rest of your post and questions.

  3. Oh, I had no idea someone was writing about Mormon women’s journals. I’ve been intrigued by that topic for quite some time (especially as they transformed to blogs) and even tried to write my Master’s thesis on it until I was told I was too close to my subject. So I settled for mommy blogs in general. I’m definitely going to add the book to my list. Thank you!

  4. YAY!! Love this. Thank you! I’m going to work on being more brave. It especially rings true to me that I need to express my truth even if it isn’t what the majority of those around me expect.

  5. When you believe something to be true, you have to trust in that feeling even if it seems challenged down the road. You need to be careful not to equate bravery with going against the grain…sometimes staying the course takes just as much courage.

  6. Brave to me means finding out what God wants me to do and then doing it. It means acting in faith on doctrines and principles even when I don’t know the outcome. It means having faith in the WHO even when I don’t know the WHY. It means standing up for what I believe in — prophets, apostles, revelation, children, eternal possibilities, and taking a stand against the sins that will tear away at families and society. It means believing that there are eternal standards of right and wrong set by God, not by changing winds of society. I know some very brave people who took a stand in California a few years ago to follow a prophet and were targeted and ridiculed as a result. That’s bravery.

  7. I echo what Handsfullmom so beautifully stated. Read of Brigham Young’s obedience when many would say he had good reason to not follow the prophet and “lean unto his own understanding.”
    Its not blind obedience – its obedience generated from covenant making; individual commitment to testimony born of the Spirit and knowing the Savior in one’s life.

    That’s true bravery compared to individual desires.

  8. I also am not sure that I believe in the concept of “standing in my own truth.” Elder Oaks spoke in Women’s Conference in 2010 (link below) and talked about universal, eternal truth and warned about excessive individualism. The talk doesn’t have a transcript, but I found an excerpt on Deseret Book’s website that expressed nearly the same sentiment from him:

    “The Lord prepared us for this godless and amoral day by giving us the account in the thirtieth chapter of Alma. Here we read of Korihor, who taught that “every man prospered [in this life and] . . . conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime” (Alma 30:17). Under that philosophy—which is currently pervasive in the media, in educational systems, and in peer pressure—many believe that there are no absolute laws or standards to govern personal behavior.

    Elder Bruce D. Porter spoke of this in his impressive talk last month at the BYU “Stand for the Family” symposium. He referred to a book by a noted historian of culture, James Lincoln Collier, titled The Rise of Selfishness in America. That title describes an obvious trend and a major concern in this country.

    Elaborating on this, Elder Porter discussed what he called “the American worship of individualism.” He described this as “an individualism so extreme that every person is considered the fount of their own moral law, unconnected from larger social ends. Modern society glories, even worships, the idea of self: of the wholly autonomous individual unconnected with social or moral obligations, free to pursue whatever ends they choose so long as it does not cause direct physical harm to other aggrandizing selves.”

    No one has expressed these ideas of individualism and self-definition of morality more seductively than Frank Sinatra in his popular song, “My Way,” written by Paul Anka. Singing as one whose “end is near,” who faces “the final curtain,” Sinatra sings his case, of which he’s “certain.” As one who’s “traveled each and every highway,” he declares proudly, even defiantly, “I did it my way.””

    Later in the Women’s Conference address, he stated that the song, “My Way” would only be sung in the telestial kingdom. Those that go to the Celestial Kingdom would have done things God’s way.

    The women’s conference address is here: http://byutv.org/watch/23c9b01c-1a9d-4f86-9c2e-8532b6aa8b9b/byu-womens-conference-elder-dallin-h-oaks-sister-kristen-oaks-2010

    And the Deseret Book link is here: http://seek.deseretbook.com/dallin-h-oaks-choose-ye-day-serve-lord/i

  9. I take issue with the notion of having ‘my own truth’. This is what I would call the ‘Oprah-ization’ of our culture. We may each have our own experience, own revelations, own perspective, own timeline, etc.; however, there is only one Truth and one way.

    I know from personal experience that we can run into trouble when we begin to believe that there are many ways, many paths that will lead us to our ‘own’ happiness. No, there is only one way and it is a straight, narrow, and a set course. Again, we may have different experiences as we travel that path (and some of our differences may and often do come because we stray from that path, if only slightly) but in the end, it is the only way.

  10. Sharon and Carrie,

    There are a number of ways to think about the Gospel. Some might champion the idea that there is only one way to God and some might support the idea that all roads lead to God. I think, in some ways, they are both right. You wrote that there is “one Truth and one way”. I believe that there is one God and he wants us to keep his commandments, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say there is only one way. There are, for instance, many ways to be a righteous Mormon woman. One of the things that I love about this blog, and many other LDS blogs, is that I can read about a variety of people living the gospel in a variety of ways. One sister might be the personal responsibility champion and another might engage in great works of compassionate service. They are both right, even if they live the gospel in different ways.

  11. Thank you so much for this post! I truly believe that the Lord wants us to be brave and to stand up for what we believe. Even more importantly, He wants us to be brave enough to follow Him, wherever it may lead us. There are so many paths that Mormon women lead in this life and we each need to be brave enough to stand on our own sometimes.

  12. Great discussion! Thanks to all who commented. I just want to clarify in more Mormon jargon that “standing in my own truth” means listening to the voice of the Spirit with your own precious soul and obeying, no matter what the directive. Kill Laban? Yes. Build a ship? Sure. Be an unwed pregnant teen so Jesus can get to earth in physical form? Be it unto me . . . Sacrifice your child of promise? Gulp . . . yes. Brave is simple, complete obedience to God. God gives each of us individual direction within the context of universal Truth. Some of those directives are very hard. Brave is most critical right then.

  13. I agree and disagree with this idea of “standing in my own truth” and the idea that there are many paths for Mormon women to follow. There were many paths in Lehi’s vision of the tree of life but only one, the straight and narrow, led to the tree of life. There may be many seasons of life and angles of approach to it but ultimately there isn’t a whole lot of variety when it comes to obedience. I guess it pretty much boils down to brutal honesty on our part–are we following Christ or are we following our own will, for whatever reason? Sometimes we will be pioneers and mavericks. Other times we need to be humble sheep who go along with a lot of other humble sheep. I have no desire to be anybody’s judge but there were a few choices and issues mentioned in this article about “standing in my own truth” that made me uncomfortable.

  14. Facebook has limited my ability to interact intelligently online because the only thing I can think of to say is, “YES.”

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

  15. Lisa- this was lovely. I also was also surprised and delighted at the film. I do believe in the notion of “standing in my own truth.” There may be one God, but there is no singular way to live. So much of our lives is a result of choice, what we want and seek inspiration for and follow. While at the same time there is a perfect example in Christ. I believe firmly revelation and bravery in personally as well as through the prophet- you can’t get all that you need through one channel alone. There must be balance. I know I am still working at striking that just right.

    I admire bold moves, and those willing to really commit and embrace something, whatever you choose- it takes courage. More often than not I feel anxious whenever I take a leap rather than brave- but those leaps taught me about myself, both good and bad. But perhaps the good things can be called brave. I would like that.

  16. Oh Miss Lisa G! What a wonderful blog entry to be introduced too! Thank You! To all those who have replied, I thank you as well, because it has provided the validation to some of my own thoughts as to what I would expect from a collection of Mormon women.

    I am by far (given in my own mind) not the atypical fabulous role model of a Latter Day Saint female. I am an over educated woman with mountains of thoughts that would turn my ancestors over in their graves. I firmly believe that being Brave is affirming the power behind Free Agency that each of us has been given. Yes, in Lehi’s dream he was shown that there is only the straight and narrow by which we should choose…being brave is about getting back on that straight and narrow pathway when you have strayed.

    Being brave and having the courage (the action to act upon brave thoughts) is what prompted significant leaders of our great church to do what was prompted and necessary for the progression of the church. This can also be said for simply getting out of bed some days!

    My interpretation of “Standing in my own truth” is having the faith to stand up for my beliefs, and being willing to put my hand “up to the square” when I have received the personal revelation. That phrase is what our religion is about sisters! We are encouraged to stand in our own truth when we are about in the “world”, are we not?! We are encouraged to do so by the leaders so that we can get the personal revelation about what we are taught.

    So after this long winded soap box…be brave enough to follow the still small voice…be brave enough to (not irreverently) question, because maybe the answer that is provided will open doors another needed to hear/see…be brave to be yourself, because isn’t that what ultimately what our Heavenly Father sent us down here to be and what we did to be one of the chosen.

  17. This entry is brave . . . and beautiful. It seems that anyone who seeks a spiritual life will eventually confront moments of paradox — and these will look different for each of us; heavenly paradox one of the essential patterns in the scriptures. I’m struck that the creation narrative is structured around saying no to God’s order in order to say yes to God’s gifts. And in the face of uncomfortable truths, of unexpected paths, of whispers we would rather ignore . . . What’s an everyday Eve to do?

    One thing we can always do is be gentle with each other’s stories. Very gentle.

  18. A phrase came to mind as I was still pondering this…before the Young Women recite their theme they say, “Stand for Truth and Righteousness.”

    They don’t say, “Stand for Your Own Truth.”

    Again, this is not to say that everyone’s lives are exactly the same or that we make all the same choices. But our goal should be to act upon Truth as declared by Him, rather than to declare ourselves ever the exception to the Rule.

  19. So well put. I love this idea of taking personal responsibility for your communion with the Spirit and with God and your determination to live and do what comes from your revelation. It shows that we need to always look to ourselves and use the Gift of the Holy Ghost to own our decisions and not lay them on any other falliable mortal. To quote some of my favorite Mormon folk literature, as Jesus says in “My Turn on Earth” when he is presenting his plan in the premortal realm–”To use the powers that are within us, and to not look continually to someone else. To use our own free agency. This is growth, and growth must be.” And acting on what God tells you–and not anyone else–is brave in every way.

  20. I love this post! Thank you so much for being brave enough to share your experiences, in spite of some rather unkind reactions.

    One thing i love about Mormonism is the concept of personal revelation, which says anyone can have a personal relationship with God and receive guidance for their own lives. I believe in a personal God that does not demand the same choices from every human being; if everyone was supposed to believe and do the exactly same thing, why would we need personal revelation at all. I firmly believe in standing for what you feel is true, and I applaud you for standing for your connection to God, even if others don’t approve or understand.

  21. Sincere thanks to those of you who understood what I was trying to say. I especially love Deborah’s image of the “everyday Eve” faced with paradoxical choices.That is every one of us at some point in our lives.

    To those of you stuck on a phrase, please reread my definition of “standing in my own truth” in the comments above. We are all on the same page here, all in need of everyday courage to stand in Truth.

    Be strong, sisters!

  22. Brave means being willing to stand alone. It means standing in my own truth, even when everyone around me disagrees. Brave is voicing the truth, no matter the consequences.

    This is exactly what I hope to be able to teach my children (and um, myself). Thank you for a lovely post, Lisa.

  23. I haven’t seen the movie, but I do love this blog entry. We all have different challenges and different mortal experiences we are dealing with– I think it was Julie Beck who said we are all going through a very personal mortal journey right now. With that, each of us MUST find different truths– be it the bravery to face chemotherapy or brovery to inject a diabteic toddler or the bravery to remain in a ward where one does not fit in at all (I am in this group at the moment, and dream of crossing the street to attend church in the ward that is closer thereby ignoring stupid boundary lines). But I think I am being brave in still attending this unfriendly ward, sitting alone in relief society and doing what works for me. We all have different types of brave and truth– things that others cannot understand or comprehend. It doesn’t make my life, my thoughts, my beliefs or my choices less true or less right. God has a plan for me; my plan doesn’t match your plan. And because we each have individual challenges, we all must be brave.

  24. I love this post so much. I think one of the hardest things we have to learn in this life is how to be brave in standing for truth as we understand it when it is friends and fellow believers who find fault with us for our understanding of what is true. It’s much easier to stand for our understanding of truth against people we completely disagree with, or people who openly mock us, or people about whom we do not care personally or with whom we do not have relationships. Your post really spoke to me, Lisa, because it identified the importance of standing for one’s own understanding of truth, based on one’s own personal relationship with God (which is After all the only thing we really can base our own understanding of truth on).

    And it does make me a little sad to see so many commenters nitpick a single phrase rather than reading the post charitably and then celebrating its beauty.

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts. I needed to read them today.

  25. I find it hilarious that some commentors seem to be upset that other commentors disagree with the original post on finding your own truth. You are sad that some express a different truth than the truth of the post? Ha! The irony!

  26. What makes me sad is not that they expressed their own truth, but rather that they did so to *correct* the original poster for not having the right “own truth.” Had they expressed their own truth without judging someone else for having a different idea, and continued doing so even after she clarified that the ideas she shared were not actually as different as these commenters painted them to be, it wouldn’t bother me at all.

    Of course, it shouldn’t surprise me that Mormons judge other Mormons for not having the “right” ideas and beliefs. That is the attitude that has left me feeling like I’d rather not associate with the Mormon church any longer. If only its members could live by the counsel Elder Uchtdorf shared recently to not judge one another harshly simply because we sin differently from one another. We are all of us sinners. We all of us have ideas and perceive truths that are different from others’ perceptions, no matter how much we think we’re conforming to the “straight and narrow.” We’ll all confront the paradoxes Deborah mentioned and we’ll each make our own decisions. None of us can possibly know others’ hearts or whether others’ choices are in keeping with God’s will *for them.* It would be lovely if we would all acknowledge that and embrace each other’s stories without passing what is ultimately nothing more than destructive judgment.

  27. As the original poster, I welcome all comments and opinions and perspectives. We are each figuring out how to make the journey through mortality successfully (whatever that means to you)and we all have widely variant talents, challenges, and experiences. We do need to honor and support each other in the journey, and not sweat it when others’ weaknesses show up. We’re all in this together.

  28. I can see all sides to this discussion about the post. The real reason your post hit a nerve with me is that you specifically mention abortion and gay rights. (I know that is not what the post is about but it seems as though you dropped those issues specifically to bait debate.)

    As a woman trying to live her own truth while obeying God by following his prophet I feel a disconnect in your post. Parts of it don’t gel together. Is this about rebellion, obedience, self importance, personal revelation, worldly ideas tainting sacred doctrines? I don’t know, because I don’t know you I’d like to give you the benefit of the doubt. I feel like Segullah is a place that we support the church, a safe place to be faithful. Your post makes me wonder if that’s changing.

    For me there is no “personal truth” with some issues, the prophet has been clear and I give him the utmost benefit of the doubt.

  29. I have to also Ditto Jendoop. She was able to say eloquently what I have been feeling about this post.

  30. I will also chime in and thank Jendoop for sharing her feelings so well. I agree with what she said.

  31. I don’t think we have to agree with one another completely on every issue in order to support each other as women and saints. Ultimately, it is our compassion for others that brings us the closest to understanding Christ and is the true litmus test for if we are really His disciples. And let’s be honest, compassion is limited when we judge. It just is. Fortunately, compassion and disagreement aren’t mutually exclusive. If it’s more important to us to convince others that we’re right and they’re wrong, than to love and serve, we’re only living the letter of the law.

    I love the phrase “your mileage may vary.” It succinctly expresses that we’re all trying to get to the same destination, but we’re en route with different needs, backgrounds and yes, different roads to that same goal of eternal life. My mileage has taught me that receiving unconditional love and acceptance has empowered me to repent and become a better person. I’m trying my best to give that gift back to the people around me.

  32. I like what chicklegirl says. Nice.

    I also understand what Jendoop is saying, but I didn’t read the kind of dissension in the OP that many of you did. What I read made me think about hard decisions I’ve had to make, times I’ve had to be brave when the decisions I’ve made (directed specifically by the Holy Ghost and confirmed by temple worship, prayer, scripture study and pleading with the Lord) looked “wrong” to the outside world, or even to the Kerri of a year or two before. I’ve thought about Nephi killing Laban (obviously breaking the commandment not to kill) and Eve deciding to eat the fruit (obviously breaking the commandment to leave that darned fruit alone) and how sometimes we’re asked to do things that go against the norm, that make little sense from an external perspective. Some of these decisions in my own life have included choosing to spend money we didn’t have more than once and on more than one occasion, buying a house that was quite a bit more than sufficient for our needs, resulting in a long and stressful period financially, deciding to spend hours a day practicing for an audition for a degree I didn’t need, and more…and all of these decisions have been HARD to justify to others, let alone to myself. I only knew I was living in my truth, the truth that was dictated by my loving, kind Heavenly Father, even if that truth didn’t always make sense or even fit with our leader’s counsel. (And just so it’s clear, I ABSOLUTELY follow the prophet, love him, sustain him, and do my very very best to do what he says I should.)

    So while I understand why some of Lisa’s phrases have some commenters concerned, I must say I agree with her…truth from Heavenly Father sometimes looks a little different than we think it “should.” It’s a hard lesson, but I know He has taken me to the places He wanted me to go so I’d learn the lessons He needed me to learn. In the process, I’ve learned to trust the whisperings of the Spirit. They haven’t steered me wrong yet.

  33. I have to agree with Jendoop, this post changed directions toward the end and it FELT different…I realize that our reactions might reflect our experiences and what is brave to Lisa may not be true for me (if I understood what she was saying)
    I do not feel like I need to attend a gay parade to feel or show my love for someone who deals with homosexuality…I’m just sitting here wondering what the “correct response” is so that it won’t seem like I am judging you or you are judging me? Before I push submit, I just want to say that I LOVE YOU ALL, my sisters in the gospel. Isn’t it amazing to have it in our lives to guide and direct us? Have a wonderful weekend!

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