MORE magazine this month has a featured shout-out to women who showed guts and bravery – they call it “The Fierce List”.
I have always loved the word fierce. It speaks to me of a fiery intensity, of zeal, and of passion. I love the juxtaposition of the phrase “fierce grace” – that we can be strong, passionate, and graceful all at once.
I am blessed with many women in my life who have exhibited this combination of guts and beauty, quiet strength, and depth in the face of adversity. Women who have walked through hell, and risen from the ashes not charred and burned, but transformed.
I recently led training for parent leaders from across the state. We began with telling our personal story – two-minute sound bites highlighting who we are, how we got there, and where we thought we were going next. Two minutes is barely enough time for most of us to spit out our job description, and yet, 25 participants and 4 trainers stood in front of a horseshoe of folding tables and shared the essence of their journeys.
This time around, it was all women. Though our backgrounds were diverse – immigrant, Christian, Muslim, Agnostic, white, black, Latino, poor, middle class, rural, urban, formal education, and school of life – we all shared the struggles of parenthood and the desire to make our world a better place.
It struck me as I listened and reflected on my own story that bravery does not always fly in wearing a superhero’s cape. Fierceness often seeps in through the cracks left behind when life falls apart.
These women – and many others in my life – are some of the bravest people I know. There is little time to acknowledge, let alone recognize, the feats of strength they perform every day. Sometimes it looks like standing up to a doctor when he says there is nothing wrong – but mother’s instinct says there is. Other times, it is picking up a paintbrush for the first time, or lacing up a pair of running shoes even though you know you will only make it to the end of the block.
It is saying no and meaning it, because you know that if you don’t, you will be saying no to a moment with your child that will never come again. It is telling your story through tears so that someone else won’t have to tell the same one again, or speaking up for your neighbor because they can’t speak for themselves.
It is putting on a skirt when you haven’t worn anything but stained sweatpants for the last three years and going out to dinner with the man who loves you anyway. It is riding a horse, driving across the country, and spending a weekend completely alone.
It is saying, “I’m sorry”, “I don’t understand”, or “Help me”. It is stepping up, reaching out, and walking away. It is starting a conversation with a stranger, offering a smile to the grumpy cashier, and smiling at the dirty toddler on the playground. It is learning not to judge, and offering a hand wherever you can.
It is recognizing your gifts, and then using them to make the world a little brighter. It is owning the glory of your journey.
I wonder how our relationships might be different if we took two minutes every day to hear someone’s story, and then mirrored back to them their own fierce grace. I think we would all be stronger, kinder, and more prone to taking risks. Imagine what you could do if you knew that you had the reserves to try, and an army of love to catch you if you fell.
My challenge to you is to try it – notice small acts of bravery in people’s stories, then tell them what you saw. I’d love to hear about it too – let me know how it goes!