Courage. The ability within to face difficulty without fear. To be brave. Determined. What this means to each of us as individuals will vary. My fears will always look different than your fears.
What does courage mean to you?
For some, it is being your awesome self without fear of rejection, or maybe, in spite of the fear of rejection. For others, it is being strong for your children, because you are all they have. Some pursue a dream, without allowing the odds against you to stop you.
For me, it was finally standing up. Speaking out. Believing that I had something important to say. That my story was worth hearing. That my abuser would no longer control my actions. That the threats were entirely null and void. That I was no longer afraid of him. As I wrote the post, I was, in fact, terrified, but not of him. I worried about what my kids would face. I worried my friends and family would judge me. That they might think I was white trash, or worse, that I deserved it. That I wasn't a good Christian. That I could never make a good wife. That my story wouldn't matter. That my experiences wouldn't ever make a difference.
The funny thing about courage... Courage doesn't feel brave. It doesn't feel strong. As a matter of fact, I have felt weaker in the months since writing this post than I have ever felt in my life. Most of my battle was completely internal. I doubted the efficiency and impact of my words. I fought my mind. I wondered if people were snickering behind my back, casting judgment over where I had been. I questioned my self-worth. It was then that I realized I was taking on the role of the abuser, degrading myself.
Because I felt so vulnerable and insecure in who I was and the things I had walked through, I forgot about the woman I had become. Then, as time passed, my worries turned into complete awe. I received texts, emails, private messages, and public comments thanking me for being brave, strong, courageous. For giving a voice to the silent. Finally realizing who I was is no longer who I am. It was in those moments that I realized courage comes in many forms.
Courage. I think about the soldiers fighting day in and out to preserve and protect our freedoms. I think about the moms with special needs children who advocate, without ceasing, for the rights of their children. I think about the women I know who have fought (or are fighting) cancer, reminding those around them that God is in control, that He's got this. I think about the woman who quits her job to open up her own business, and thrives. Or the one who goes back to school and conquers something so much bigger than she ever thought she could. The woman who decides she can and will lose the weight that has crept on, pound by pound. The one who puts down the alcohol or drugs for the last time. And then, it really is the last time.
The funny thing about courageous women is that none of us really see ourselves as courageous. Doesn't matter how big the battles we face, we always see the fear. The doubt. The worry. The weakness. We don't see courage. We see us, doing what we have to do for our families. That is what makes us resilient. Overcomers. We don't see the ability to quit. But, we also don't see the people watching us. We don't see the way they look on with awe. The way we inspire them to believe in themselves just a little more than they did yesterday. We don't see the way they can believe in who they are, because we believe in who we are.
For me, writing out and owning what I enabled to happen in my life was something I did thinking, hoping, maybe I'd reach a few hundred people. Maybe I could convince one woman she was worth so much more than staying in a violent situation. Hoping that I could convince one man why his wife could feel so devalued by his actions and words. That maybe, just maybe, we aren't who others thought we were, that we could remember each person walks battles we rarely get to see. That every person fights with courage the battles presented in their lives. What I learned in all of this is so simple:
Stand for what is important. Listen to your heart. Believe
you can make a difference. And then you will.
When one person does what he or she can do, others will, too. While my original post has not (that I know of) saved a life, it has brought about discussion. Awareness. Inclusion. Freedom. Over a thousand people have seen read my words, reliving my story, in at least ten different countries. That, my friends, is beyond anything I could have ever expected. My heart says a HUGE thank you to those of you who have supported this cause. I had no idea one post could do so much. I think this is what it feels like to change the world, one small piece at a time.