The words “brave” and “courageous” are over-used in my opinion. Especially in the media.
At the risk of sounding callous or lacking compassion (believe me, I’m not), young kids suffering from disabilities or serious illness are bloody unlucky, not brave. So too are refugee kids uprooted from everything they’ve ever known by war, hatred or famine. True, they may draw on whatever reserves of strength and hope they or their families have to handle the lousy hand life has dealt them and get on with things, but they're sadly not given any choice in the matter.
Dare devils or adrenaline addicts who put on a tight muscle t-shirts and throw themselves off tall buildings or engage in macho-crap escapades to try to convince themselves (and anyone who’ll watch) that they're some kind of local action hero aren't brave - they're just terminal show-offs.
And those Z list celeb touting their latest melodrama under a screaming headline of “Supermodel’s ordeal!” when they have the misfortune to have a cancer scare, get mugged or emerge from some imagined glamourous but traumatic trial DEFINITELY don’t qualify.
True bravery is about being inwardly terrified of something, but going ahead and doing it anyway, because you know you have to.
It’s about knowing some will condemn you, criticise you, even cut you out of their lives. And still going ahead. It’s about having the sheer brass balls to be yourself without excuse or apology. It’s about accepting that some will automatically drop you into a stereotype box – even though everything you do in your life flies in the face of that stereotype.
This weekend, the teenage son of one of my oldest friends announced to the world that he is gay. It can’t have been easy for him, especially in his chosen career in the army. But he had fabulous support from his brother (also in the military) who assured him that everything would be fine with the people that mattered.
And it was.
And it was.
He is happy about who he is. I imagine he is even happier now he knows that his family and friends accept this newly-revealed detail about him.
After all, the fact that he’s gay is just a detail, a tiny aspect of all the things that make up the package they love.
He’s a soldier. He’s gay. He’s open about it. And he’s ready to deal whatever life throws at him. He chose to come out, instead of hiding behind a façade to please the rest of the world. And now he’s getting on with his life.
I salute him, his courage and the people standing with him who gave him the strength to be who he is.