I’m not gonna talk to you about how to be brave, ok? You know how to be brave. You know what scares you, what you are passionate about and if you don’t… quit reading and start talking to yourself. Seriously. If you don’t know YOU, who can you know?!
Years ago I read a book, “The Meaning of Your Name”. OK, no, I didn’t read it. I flipped through it until I found “Elizabeth” and then quit. But to the point: Elizabeth, according the book, meant “truth to God”. I immediately decided I liked that. Truth. It’s been what I strive for my entire life. We call it integrity, authenticity, genuineness…. It’s about not lying. Not even being a part of a lie to help someone feel better….even if that someone is me. It’s scarey. I mean, really, who DOESN’T lie to themselves?
Religion supported my desire for truth for most of my life. The idea that I would stick to the truth, even when others disagreed was inspiring and made me feel good. The idea that God knew my thoughts kept me true… I thought. Until I started thinking. Really thinking. Being brave.
Here are some somewhat random thoughts I mulled over (I didn’t know at the time I was even BEING brave), fought through and stashed away for later thinking:
- What does Jesus actually say vs what are we taught vs what we do? I found too much disparity. That bothered me. So….
- I imagined all the things in my life that I thought were true – whether perceived, learned, absorbed – written on a big chalk board. I then imagined myself erasing everything. Everything. Why? Because if it really IS true, it can’t be really be erased. It would keep appearing on my board. If it didn’t hold water, I didn’t want it. That is truth.
I was later introduced to some of the works of philosopher Rene Descartes, who said, “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” That’s what I had come to believe as well. How strong is your belief if you haven’t had to fight through the truth of it?
- This meant getting rid of much of what I was taught – and believe me I tried to keep it! Things I was taught about being a good person (which often equated to ‘good enough’. which begs the question, “Good enough for what?” and “Who actually decides?” Cause if it’s God, then what are WE doing deciding???) //rant. I started asking “Really??” I also started responding “Fuck that shit.” to much of what I had been taught about my role, my gender, my beliefs and my ‘place’ in the world.
- I started talking to everyone (if you know me, you know this is only a slight exaggeration) about what I thought. I asked what they thought and listened intently. Put those things on my chalkboard and then erased.
- When people I looked up to couldn’t GIVE me the answers, I decided that I was on my own. Had to think for myself. I received permission to disagree with concepts, presented as truths, due to lack of definitive answers/evidence. Kinda funny, that…. I have a tattoo on my forearm that says “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, then who am I? If not now, when?” It’s meaning keeps growing. (Fortunately the tattoo doesn’t keep growing, that would be CRAYYYZZZZY)
Let me be clear, I think EVERYONE should think for themselves. Fearlessly. If you think it, you think it. Suppressing, lying, or hiding does nothing for you or the people around you. You have a unique perspective. I get to decide if it is valid or useful for my life, but even if I deem it unuseful, you should still think it – until you decide that you don’t think that thing anymore. Changing your mind upon new evidence is acceptable.
I don’t think this should be called bravery, either. I think it should be called living life.