Why Calling Someone “Brave” Can Do More Harm Than Good (Or – Words Are Not What I Want To Hear)

I have come to a strange conclusion about my friends – they all appear to be suffering from a “Dictionary-based Delusion” about me. And – to be honest – I am pretty upset by it.

They all insist on telling me how “brave” they think I am. I could tell you why I think some of them are braver than I will ever be (two of them left their native country during a revolution, one of them blew the whistle on something they didn’t like which was happening in their former workplace – then managed to reinvent themself into a brilliant investigative journalist and author, some of them have put up with the worst I could throw at them, etc).

Before you ask – I don’t consider myself to be brave as I drift through my current situation. I consider myself to be a passenger in it.

After all, if you want my thoughts on when I have been brave you might be in for a very big shock.

To me “Bravery” is not about coping with a situation – it is about trying to change it so it works for you and the rest of the known universe. Particularly when the odds are firmly stacked against you.

Scars, sight problem, and bullying all required me to be brave in one way or another (in at least two cases they still do even now).

The hardest thing I have ever done is teach myself how to act like everyone else at school – including reading print which was a lot smaller than I was comfortable with, navigating my way around without falling down steps, etc.

The “brave” stuff is what you do in secret (or in plain sight) on your own because nobody else sees – or understands – your hurt and pain. On the flip side of that – the “brave” stuff is the stuff nobody gives you credit for until maybe decades after the fact. (As two ladies I went to Secondary school with did this week on Facebook.)

Calling someone brave does have its place. Please don’t misunderstand me. The divers who rescued the Thai football team this week were brave.

My problem comes when people call others brave without realising they have only got two options – keep going or crawl into a corner and wait for the sweet relief of death.

The best way to prove you think I am brave is not by telling me you do but by showing me. Smiles, hugs, a friendly word about you and your life, etc, go a long way to making me feel I am not alone.

Contrary to the opinion you might have built of me from reading my posts on here – it may surprise you to learn I am a pretty private person who finds it very difficult to trust people. I also judge people more by their behaviour towards me than their verbal output in my direction. You want to convince me that you think I am the best thing to enter your life??? Make me feel cared for and about as well as wanted in your life. After all, I will always stand up for my friends, try to help them, and generally attempt to make them feel wanted and cared for and about. I will also do my utmost to protect them. All I ask is they do the same for me.

However, it is not just our friends we have to support through any difficult situations. The people we work with are also important people in our lives.

You may not know the issues your colleagues face when they are not at work – they could be facing financial ruin, they could be dealing with responsibilities as a carer for a member of their family, they could be in the endgame of a serious illness, etc – without you realising what they are going through.

Go on – if you see one of your colleagues isn’t as bright and sparkly as usual today – ask them if they need you as a friend.

That is a lot better than standing on the sidelines informing them you think they are brave whilst you watch them struggle.

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