I don’t consider myself a brave person. Not outwardly at least.
Like many people who prefer the life of the imagination, I sometimes struggle with social awkwardness. Trying to maintain a healthy relationship with the outer world is a constant, legendary battle. Most of the time, I’m content with letting it be while I do my own thing.
There are some unfortunate side effects, though. While I may quiver with rage at injustice, rudeness, or plain bullying, I’m usually too nerve-wracked to respond properly. On the inside, I may be brimming with righteous indignation when my personal integrity or other moral issues seem threatened. Yet, when confronted with defending those values, I don’t always follow through. And if I’m being extra hard on myself about it, I believe that my inaction looks a lot like cowardice.
So, I am enamored with those who are courageous in the real world. They are what I’m constantly aspiring to be.
Recently, I found the biopic of The Bronte Sisters called “To Walk Invisible” after scrolling through an endless loop of programming on a streaming service. I was overjoyed, not only because I had missed the initial broadcast of the movie, but also because of a certain affinity, a sisterhood, an adoration that many literature-loving women harbor for the Brontes in general. The movie did not disappoint.
While the acting was superb and the storyline about the struggles of women writers impressed me deeply, I was genuinely captivated by the peeks of poetry slipped in to demonstrate the genius of the Bronte Sisters. In particular, Emily’s recitation of “No Coward Soul is Mine” made my breath catch in my throat. The movie’s plot attributed the poem’s creation to Emily supporting her sister Anne’s tenacity. All three sisters had to endure their brother’s destructive addictions and society’s barriers against enterprising women. Still, the poem’s declaration of eternal bravery in the face of impossible odds stunned me with its power. It could apply to any one of us in any situation.
I had to reevaluate my self-concept. Perhaps I had misjudged my own character. Sure, I have a relatively mild personality, but I thought of the many tough situations my personality helped me endure. Yes, I probably feel fear more often than others, but I push through it when I love something. I love to write, but it terrifies me most of time, so I have to discipline myself to write this blog or write poems or write stories. Most people shudder at the thought of telling a significant other about their feelings, but I remembered the bravery I showed in telling a friend how I felt, then later having the courage to admit that we were not meant to be. Most of all, I remembered how I fought to make peace with my past and heal my wounds, so I could move on with my life.
We all have this idea about what true courage looks like, which is its outward appearance, but that’s only half the story. We’re brave when we are honest with ourselves and the people around us. We’re brave when we admit our failings, our imperfections, and our mistakes with the intent of accepting them or doing the hard work necessary to change. We’re brave when we follow our dreams, despite our crippling fears or the doubts of those around us. We’re brave when we decide to endure a tough situation. We’re brave when we decide it’s best to let go.
We’re brave when we allow ourselves to be happy despite the overwhelming negativity of the world. It takes courage to remain positive and hope that the universe is good and ultimately on our side. As Bronte noted in her poem, the universe is eternal. If it is eternal, then so is its goodness. What better incentive do we have to be brave?
No Coward Soul Is Mine BY EMILY BRONTË
No coward soul is mine
No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere
I see Heaven’s glories shine
And Faith shines equal arming me from Fear
O God within my breast
Almighty ever-present Deity
Life, that in me hast rest,
As I Undying Life, have power in Thee
Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men’s hearts, unutterably vain,
Worthless as withered weeds
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main
To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by thy infinity,
So surely anchored on
The steadfast rock of Immortality.
With wide-embracing love
Thy spirit animates eternal years
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears
Though earth and moon were gone
And suns and universes ceased to be
And Thou wert left alone
Every Existence would exist in thee
There is not room for Death
Nor atom that his might could render void
Since thou art Being and Breath
And what thou art may never be destroyed.