Being Brave: online/offline

Hello there! Today I am thinking about bravery. Can we talk about that for a minute?
Bravery is a concept that’s been on my mind for a good, long while. It’s been a personal practice for me in the past few months… something that I’ve tried to be better at.
You see, I’m one of those people that’s somewhat anxious and worried by default. I’m kind of wired that way. I have so many great stories that I could tell you… most of which involve fainting in doctors’ offices of all kinds. Fun fact: With the help of Google I have actually diagnosed myself with a fascinating disorder-type-thingy, which I am super happy about because unlike ALL my other Google medical inquiries, this one does NOT suggest that I have cancer/heart disease/malaria and that I need to “call 911 immediately.” Oh WebMD, how we love you, am I right?

But, moving on, I’ve started to see a bit of the beauty in my anxiousness and worrying as I’ve been introduced to people who talk honestly and vulnerably about feeling All The Things- all the fears and all the worries and all the anxiety. There is so much power in a “me too” from another human.

I’m still not completely sure how I feel about All Those Things. Most of the time I would rather not be worried or anxious, but it has also led me to connection and provision that I wouldn’t have now, otherwise. It’s just another piece of myself that I am learning to accept, nurture, and love without condition.

But still, I’m thinking more and more about bravery lately. And each time I get a little braver, a tiny piece of my deeply rooted fear breaks free.

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I have had a handful of situations in the past few months where I have been really brave. Half of those moments involved me shaking from nerves, but still… Brave. I was brave.

Bravery doesn’t mean not being afraid, it means trusting and gripping onto something bigger than fear… something like Love.

I am so thankful for the situations I’ve been a part of where I’ve had the opportunity to be brave and courageous. And, since I am blogging this…online, I feel like I should tell you that all of these situations have happened in person.

I’m not super brave or vulnerable online, and I think that’s actually a good thing. I save the best and worst parts of my heart for my real-life friends. Granted, I do have some friends I have met online through blogging that I consider real life friends, so they also count. But here, on this blog, I talk more about Life than life.
I used to think I was a coward for being this way, for not sharing more about myself. Do hear this, I totally share if a reader sends me an email asking for my story, tells me their story, or just wants to talk more about life than Life. I’m not afraid of that, I actually love that. But, I don’t feel the need to talk about all of my struggles and stories here on my blog.
I follow some people in different online arenas that are called to talk about a specific hardship they’ve had/have, and that works out beautifully for a lot of them. I also follow a handful of people that are over-sharers. And, I don’t think that’s wrong or shameful, but it’s not for me. It takes me a long time to trust a person enough to be vulnerable with them.

Brené Brown says that

Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: “Who has earned the right to hear my story?” If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our shame stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky.

That’s why I talk more about Life (big life, everyone’s life, the world’s life, and all of that in relation to Jesus’ life, etc) here, online; and talk about life (little life, my life, struggles, shame, stories, etc) offline.
I have written a few brave things here, but I believe that being brave is more for IRL (in real life).

The things I write here ARE me. Don’t be confused. They are not masked or anything like that. I don’t necessarily hold back when I blog. And thank you, dearest readers for not criticizing me for that. Thank you for understanding, even when I’m wrong. Yes, what you read on this little blog is the true me. But this isn’t the truly brave me.

That side comes out in real life, not here.
That side comes out when I’m with a dearest friend, telling her things I’ve never uttered to anyone before, sipping Sonic drinks, and crying together. That side comes out when I’m in a room full of women, most of them older than me, speaking to them through a microphone about my story. That side comes out when I’m sitting on a couch with one of my second moms who invited me over late at night so that I could drink hot tea and cry with my head in her lap.

That is when I am brave. I am not brave here, not truly brave at least.
And I don’t want to be!
I’m not fishing for comments that say “Yes you are brave! Look at what you wrote here and here and here.”

I don’t want to be known as someone who was brave on the internet. I want to be known as someone who was brave in real life.

Also, I don’t want to just focus on being brave online, because when we do that it can lead to hurting people, real people, and feeling tough just because there’s a screen between you and another person.

You know the internet trolls and Jesus Jukes hanging around the interwebs that seem to just be looking for someone to pounce on that isn’t being “biblical” or doesn’t believe the exact same things they believe? Yeah, they’re not “being brave for Jesus” like they say. They’re being jerks. And you know what else? I bet most of those men and women are fine people off-line. I bet they are husbands and wives and mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters. I bet they are intelligent and devoted and nice. But they have it backwards. They believe their identity comes from being brave behind their keyboard. It doesn’t. It does the World Wide Web absolutely no good. It just makes everybody TIRED.

And this isn’t just in the Christian blogging sphere, even though I see it here a lot, I’m also talking about Instagram drama, and subtweets on Twitter, and news articles that bash people, and all the other hurtful and harmful things people can do online wearing their “I am being brave” masks.
You can harm other people so easily over the internet, and you can just as easily harm yourself. Just as this isn’t the place to call someone out on every single issue they write about, it isn’t the place to air out all your dirty laundry each and every day. That’s a lose/lose. Those kind of things need to be talked about, but there needs to be a factor of trust there, and there needs to be some body language cues and eye contact there.

One of my favorite people and bloggers, Jamie Wright, says that

Here [online], we’ve lost our social graces. There are no facial cues to tell us how we’re being perceived, and so it’s easy to believe that our conversation is more important than our connection, it’s easy to betray friendship and kindness in favor of making a point. This is why all of the reasonable people are talking of jumping ship, like it’s time to quit the internet.

Yep. I hate the internet sometimes: the anonymity masked as bravery, the bigotry masked as courage. But, I don’t want to quit the internet quite yet. I believe in it because I believe in the people who show up here every day who inspire me through their blogs and such. I believe in the things I’ve written and the amazing feedback I’ve received.
I do believe in showing some unmasked bravery here, but ONLY alongside kindness. I believe in showing our best behavior here, but I don’t believe in showing our best and bravest selves here. I believe that should be saved for real life, with real friends, with real faces.

I am still learning here. I’m only 17 years old. Oh my goodness, yes, I am still learning here! I discover something new about blogging and writing and interwebbing every single day. So there’s definitely a chance I’m wrong about all this. But, can I propose something?
What about rather than worrying about being brave or not being brave here, online; what if we just focused on being kind instead?
What if instead of trying to FIX everyone, we just tried to LOVE everyone?
One of my mottos, that I stole from Glennon, is “Be Kind and Brave.”

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They really work so well together. But, when choosing just one I would go for kind every time. If you are brave without being kind, you are nothing. You are doing others no great service by being brave without being kind. When in doubt, choose kindness.

So if you’re reading this and also struggling with being brave, get OFF the internet and get IN a real-life relationship. Then get back online and tell us about it. 😉 But really, I could use some of your tips and wisdom.
How do YOU manage online/offline life? How are you brave in real life? How are you kind online? What do you think about all this?

Lots and lots of loves and grace to all,
Carlee

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9 thoughts on “Being Brave: online/offline

  1. Again, your brilliance shines in a beautifully simple way where everyone can understand and relate to your words. I am happy to know the future of The Church rests in the hands of people like you and your God worshipping peers! Keep it up!

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  2. Reblogged this on anafalz and commented:
    I “rebel of” Carlee’s posts frequently. She is a brilliant young writer who has much to say. I feel good to know the future of The Church is her her, and other like her, hands! Read this post and then check out some of her other posts. Many blessings to Carlee!

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  3. As you say, dear one, IRL is where it counts. Great wisdom here…some phrases I will not forget. I treasure what He is showing you and I TREASURE YOU. mimi

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  4. I have to choose bravery every day; my flesh wants to cower and self-protect. The surest antidote to fear that I have discovered is . . . wait for it . . . laughter! As soon as I can look at the situation that tempts me to faintheartedness and see the utter hilarity that such a silly thing has threatened to make me anxious, as soon as I can begin to chuckle and, surely, as soon as I can throw my head back and belly laugh, the fear loses its hold. I love to imagine the sound of the deep, rich, laughter of God; God knows the end of the story, and, as Graham Cooke would say: “I’ve read the end of the book; we get the win!” One of my sons told me recently, at a funeral during which I wept openly and grieved deeply, “Mom, you are one of the only people I know who can weep and then roar with laughter at a funeral.” I took that as a good thing:)

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