Should I Just Keep My Mouth Shut? Rambling Thoughts on Bravery

Today’s Bloganuary word prompt is, “How am I brave”? 

Yesterday, we delved a little into the definition of the word, achieve. Today, let’s do the same for the word, brave

Merriam-Webster’s definition is “having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty”. But I like the meme definitions we all see now and then better. 

Should I Just Keep My Mouth Shut? Rambling Thoughts on Bravery 2
Being brave isn’t the absence of fear. Being brave is having that fear but finding a way through it.
Should I Just Keep My Mouth Shut? Rambling Thoughts on Bravery 3
“The thing about being brave is it doesn’t come with the absence of fear and hurt. Bravery is the ability to look fear and hurt in the face and say move aside, you are in the way.”

Okay, so now we’ve established a working definition of the word, “brave”. What’s that got to do with me? We’ll get to that in a moment. First…

Don’t Do It!

I seem to have a little problem. I can never keep my mouth shut, even when I tell myself over and over again, “just stay out of it, Donna”. Let me give you a little example.

It was New Year’s Eve, 2022. Yep, just two days ago. I was lounging in bed, trying to stay awake until midnight, scrolling through social media. I saw a notification pop up on my screen that there was a new message from someone in my neighborhood’s Facebook group. Turns out, someone was making a “joke” about the fireworks scaring their dog and cat, but the joke focused on mocking trans folks and the use of pronouns. (I won’t share the actual words here). 

Basically, a man in our subdivision was attempting to be clever and funny and wanted a portion of the other 300 neighbors who live here to chuckle and click Like. And sure enough, within seconds, about a dozen people had done so, with most also chiming in with their own versions of “pronoun jokes”.

Uh-oh. Here It Comes.

That was the moment the all-too-familiar conversation in my head began. 

Voice 1: “What an ass. I’m sick of this.”

Voice 2: “Donna, get your thumb off the phone’s keypad. You should just shut up and walk away.”

That conversation in my head didn’t last long. Voice 1 won. I immediately starting punching letters, which said, 

“How about we leave the jokes that are hurtful to people in 2022 and just be kind in 2023. Happy New Year.” 

I felt like that was a good compromise. I’d voiced my opinion without using the numerous curse words that were swirling within me. Yay, me.

The dude quickly replied to me, saying, “Sorry, David”, obviously changing my name from Donna to David to poke at me, presuming I might be trans. (I’m not, but that doesn’t matter here). 

Again, I wanted to say so very many things, but instead, I kept it simple and used the age-old Southern slap in the face, 

Bless your heart.” 

For those not aware, the phrase “bless your heart” isn’t always sincere.

The phrase is served as the “icing” of Southern politeness, a subtle way to insult someone but without coming straight out and calling someone an idiot to his or her face. – 

Jessica Banov

Of course, Mr. Ass responded with, “Sorry, Karen.” Ok, so now, I’m a Karen. 

At that point, I’m ready to let it go, I thought. 5 seconds later, I responded with:

I was going to just let it go but nah, not today. I’m going to always stand up for the people who get bullied. Back in the day, people joked about blacks. And Jews. And gays. And now transgender folks. It was bullying then, disguised as humor, and it’s bullying now. I will proudly wear any name you give me in my defense of others. You do you, but don’t be surprised at the pushback.

He clapped back, deflecting and defending, and saying he was only talking about his pets, and called me Karen once again. Okay, fine. At that point, I really did walk away.

The Aftermath

And for the next 12 hours or so (yes, even after I woke up on New Year’s Day), I felt a whole range of negative feelings. They included sadness, fear, worry, uneasiness, anger, and hurt. It doesn’t matter that some of those feelings don’t even make sense in this situation. There they all were, swirling around within me, causing my chest to tighten. 

I shared how I was feeling with my wife. For her, it was a simple solution. 

“You hurt yourself when you do that, Donna. Just don’t do it. Keep your mouth shut, and you won’t have all those feelings to deal with”. 

Simple. Right.

“But I can’t just sit there and not say anything,” I said. 

“Why?” she asked.

“Because if I let it go, then I’m part of the problem! I have to stand up against the haters”.

“Why you? Why always you?”

“Because it’s important!” My voice has risen considerably at this point.

“Then, in that case, keep on standing up to them, but work on not feeling bad after”.

Simple. Again. Right.

I have tried to do that over the years, I tell her. It never works. I always feel bad after. And of all those feelings, I think fear is the most prominent one. Fear of what, I’m not sure. It’s not like I was afraid he’d come over and beat me up. It’s more of an unspecified fear, like a low rumbling fear because you think maybe there’s something in the woods behind you, but there’s nothing there. You can see there’s nothing there, but the ache of fear remains. 

Part of it is self-doubt. Did I go too far? Did I just cause a scene for no reason? Did I make someone (the ass) feel bad for no reason? 

Was I bullying the bully?

That last question might really be the crux of it. Was I the ass, after all? Is that why I felt so bad? 

And when I say to myself, “No, Donna, you aren’t the ass. You were defending others, blah, blah, blah,”, is that defense any different than when the ass was defending his joke as just something about his dog and cat?

Fear. There it is. I can feel my chest tightening right now, as I type these words.

Fear that I’m wrong. As wrong as the person I called out. 

Oh right, I’m supposed to be talking about how I’m brave

I’m brave for standing up to the bullies, despite my fear, right? That’s how it goes, I think.

But am I brave? Or am I an ass? The fear is definitely there. But usually after the “brave act”, rather than before. So, is that act an act of bravery?

I don’t know. It’s all so simple, and yet it’s not. 

I know myself well enough at this point to only be sure of one thing. The next time something like this happens, that whole scenario, or one like it, will play out all over again. 

I can’t just shut up. Because it’s important, dammit! Even if I’m wrong.

This post is part of the WordPress Bloganuary Challenge for 2023, where everyone participating is provided a writing prompt each day. Today’s prompt was to write about how I am brave.

3 responses to “Should I Just Keep My Mouth Shut? Rambling Thoughts on Bravery”

  1. Linda Kreger Avatar

    Well-written. Sometimes, being brave is quite scary!

  2. Christine Goodnough Avatar

    You faced any interesting and totally human dilemma: to get stirred up and speak up, or roll over and go back to a peaceful sleep. I don’t agree with a lot of beliefs, etc., but I don’t feel it’s my calling to force others into my mold. I feel it’s never right to belittle someone, no matter what mold they’ve chosen. I may grit my teeth at times but I have to come back to peace of mind: get a handle on my own anger, then speak up, say how I see it and then let the issue go. We can’t squeeze the other guy’s lumps and bumps into our mold, either.

  3. Michelle Avatar

    I’m like you. I’m anxious about the consequences, but I’m never able to let it go when I’m faced with obvious bigotry or racism. It can create problems both in the moment and later, with the psychic blowback for whatever consequences arose, but I’m content, even with that, that it is the right thing to do. Be at peace with the choice you make to be brave, fearless, and a warrior for the oppressed.

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