On Bravery

I get called “brave” a lot. When someone tells me that I’m brave, what I hear is, You are doing something that most people would not do. When someone tells that I’m brave, what I hear is, I would not do things like you do.

To me, bravery has resulted in a necessarily lonely life.

I had lunch with a friend a while ago. I had recently spoken out in a very public manner about an ongoing toxic situation in my department. My friend told of a conversation that she and some other friends had about me. She said, “We respect why you do it, but we wouldn’t do things like you do.”

Her comment hurt–not because of her (I knew that she meant it kindly)–but because of one of the other friends. That friend had been very close to me, but she has mostly dropped out of my life, and the only reason I can find for that is because of my outspokenness. It hurts to lose a friend because we feel differently about activism. I don’t blame her, but I have had to let her go.

I cannot change who I am, nor would I.

When my other friend made that comment to me, I sat at that restaurant table and felt a sting in my throat. I wanted to say, “I wouldn’t do it the way you do it either,” but I didn’t. Instead, I ordered a box for my food because I had lost my appetite.

I drove to my home; it was quiet, and I was all alone with my bravery.

I don’t really know what it means to be brave. I don’t even know if I am brave. All I know is that, if I sit on an injustice, or pretend not to see it, I get physically unwell. I am not naive about the consequences of speaking out, but for me, the consequences of not speaking out are worse.

A couple of years ago, I ended a friendship with a man who pretended to be my friend, who pretended to be a feminist, but who couldn’t bring himself to confront Caleb about what he had done to me. My best friend said, “That is going to eat at his [the man’s] soul over time. That kind of thing [not speaking out] will eat him alive.”

I know that it would eat me alive. I know that it would eat my best friend alive. We love each other because we are both brave, and she would do things the way that I do.

It is easy to speak out when we are removed from the situation, when it’s an election year, or when Planned Parenthood is going to be defunded, or when the ACA is going to be repealed. It is harder to speak out when we are existing in the situation–when it involves our friends, our families, our bosses, our partners.

I am resolved to speak out regardless, even if I lose people in the process.

I am not sure if I am doing the right thing because I have had a lot of loss.