The Courage to Take Action
Guest Post by Kristin Brumm
I never thought of myself as someone who exemplified courage. That was a label others put on me. In my mind, I was only doing what I had to do to survive. I thought, at the time, that courage meant being fearless, and I was certainly not fearless. I’ve since discovered, however, that true courage is feeling fear and acting in spite of it.
In the summer of 2010 my life seemed fairly ordinary. I was married with two kids, worked as a nonprofit director and had recently started blogging as a way of indulging my love of writing. What I didn’t know at the time was that my life was about to descend into a very frightening and dark place.
The darkness, for me, was brought about when I was assaulted by my husband. It deepened when, two weeks later, he came under criminal investigation for possession of a large cache of child pornography. It took three years for the case to wind its way to federal court, and those years were spent living in fear for my safety and that of my children.
It was a confusing, terrifying and life-altering three years.
In retrospect, I can trace the choices I made that not only led out of that abyss, but eventually to freedom, empowerment and a heightened sense of purpose. Every single one of those actions, however, was precipitated by fear — often intense fear.
I was afraid to call the police, but I did.
I was afraid to write openly on my blog about what was going on, but I did.
I was afraid to face him in court, but I did.
I was afraid to leave the comfort of my home to stay at a safehouse, but I did.
When his case stalled shortly after the investigation opened and six months went by, then a year, and then a second year, I couldn’t believe it. I was incredulous and frustrated. I considered going to the media. I hoped that public scrutiny would push the case forward. I was afraid, however, that going public would cause retaliation and put us at greater risk. In the end, however, I did go to the media.
As it turned out, the gamble paid off. A local news station did an in-depth investigative report on the case. Before the story even aired, the police announced they had wrapped up the investigation and were sending it to the feds for processing. He was charged, arrested and convicted shortly thereafter. He is currently awaiting sentencing.
Fear is a natural human response to any new situation, whether ordinary or traumatic. None of us will escape feeling fear. Taking action, however, is a choice. And therein lies courage.
My story is fairly dramatic and I had a strong incentive to take action. When the stakes are high, it can be easier to take risks. Courage, however, does not have to involve daring feats of bravado. In fact, opportunities for courage lie in the simplest of everyday transactions.
Think about the times you’ve felt fear. What about when you ‘ve had to broach a difficult conversation with a loved one? Go on a job interview? Ask someone for a date? Pitch an article or idea to a company? Each of these situations presents both a risk and an opportunity to courageously step through fear to the other side.
Here, in my opinion, are some of the most courageous acts any of us could undertake:
- Listen to the still voice within
- Honor that voice
- Speak your truth
- Be vulnerable
- Be present with your emotions
- Dare to follow your heart
When we do act in spite of our fear, there is always the risk that we will fail. Success is never guaranteed. But if we do fail, we can look at it as a form of practice. We now have information we can use to help increase our chance of success next time. So even failure can be a form of success.
But I think there are even greater gifts that come with pushing through fear and taking steps toward our goals. The process of taking risks can actually re-shape us into stronger, better versions of ourselves.
In the early days of my own ordeal, when I was still struggling to make sense of it all, I would sometimes sit and take inventory of all the things I had lost: my freedom, my health (I had been diagnosed with PTSD), my financial security. But long before the nightmare was over, I started taking inventory of something else. I started noticing all the things I had gained.
I felt stronger and more sure of myself. I had a renewed sense of purpose. I felt closer to my children, and was grateful simply to be present with them. My priorities came into sharp focus. Occasionally, even on the darkest parts of the journey, I had days when I experienced a depth of love and joy that had previously escaped me.
Perhaps these gifts are, in some measure, the unexpected result of a series of small acts of courage.