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The ugly truth about bravery.

When we think about bravery and courage, we often imagine those moments from movies.

A hero is up against impossible odds. It’s difficult but he leans into the challenge and survives! His girl, who is probably the brunette tomboy he ignored for the hot blonde all too long, will kiss him as the credits play.

Yay, bravery!

Bravery is grimaces and grinding it out and wiping sweat off your brow as you save the day!

Here’s the truth about bravery:

Bravery makes you want to throw up.

Bravery makes you cry. A lot.

Bravery makes you lose sleep.

Bravery makes you lose weight or gain lots of stress pounds.

Bravery is ugly and messy and not at all heroic looking when it’s really happening.

It’s hard. Next time you feel like a coward because you’re about to make a difficult decision and you feel like throwing up, don’t beat yourself up.

That’s not cowardice, that’s bravery you’re feeling.

Next time you cry those tears that feel so stupid because you think brave people wouldn’t, stop listening to that lie.

You’re brave.

With bloody knuckles, you’re brave.

With doubters laughing at you, you’re brave.

With butterflies not just fluttering in your stomach, but drunk on four loko shouting lyrics to Miley Cyrus’ “We can’t stop,” you’re brave.

Keep going.

P.S.

If you want 1,000 other people to cheer your bravery on, join the 30 Days of Hustle today!

 

About Author

Jon Acuff
Jon Acuff

111 Comments

  1. Jon, you are BRAVE. And I so appreciate you sharing your brave journey with us all so we can be inspired to be brave too. 🙂

  2. Lolly

    Jon ( and Jenny) you are speaking from experience! It is very BRAVE to begin again. You lead and we will follow. We choose Sail. #IAmProudOfMyKids

  3. Ceri

    THANK-YOU! I so needed to hear this today.

  4. lwwarfel

    Watching someone else (i.e., Jon and Jenny) jump over the chasm of fear and doubt and take off once again … now, that’s inspiring! Thanks for showing me, once again, that doing what God has designed us to do is so worth the risk. Praying for you and your family, Jon. Keep going and growing!

  5. Amazing truthful post Jon. Bravery to me is learning to take that first step when you feel the world telling you can’t make it. You have the boldness to try and pursue what you want and if you don’t succeed it will be ok because you will persevere in time. Being brave means you accept the challenge of the unknown at times.

  6. Thanks Jon. I thought that deep stomach feeling that I get before I want to write something was maybe the Chinese hot sauce I ate last night, but your right, it is bravery.

  7. Just so glad that you are back and that your writing is motivating and inspiring others once again.

    Your words about bravery ring all too true and with them ringing in my head and in my heart, I am going to set forth today to do what scares the dickens out of me.

    Thanks, Jon!

  8. Lori

    I am so excited about your new blog being up. You and Jenny rock the bravery. Awesome!

  9. I find that one of the best things to do when you’re at the point that you want to throw up is to NOT throw up… Makes moving forward a lot less messy. Or at least turn your head to the side.

  10. Action in the face of fear is bravery, thanks for leading by example Jon!

  11. Thanks for this, Jon… Keep going bro.

    This reminds me of two quotes:

    Robert Anthony said “The opposite of bravery is not cowardice but conformity.”

    And also, an interchange between a father and a son in George RR Martin’s first ASOIAF novel:

    The son asks: “Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?”
    “That is the only time a man can be brave,” his father told him.

  12. Connie

    Thank you. I needed that.

  13. If you had the chance to change your fate, would ya? – Merida from” Brave”

  14. YES! So true!

    Love it Jon!
    Just shared your post with a few friends in circumstances where they need bravery to survive (and thrive) – and I felt like it would be encouraging for them to know that this crazy sick fatiguing feeling that they are in everyday actually IS what they are striving for – that driveshaft that carries them over the hill!!!!!

  15. Great stuff, Jon!

    Bravery, to me, is about the second step. Though few do, anyone CAN blindly take a first step into the unknown. But, the brave person is the one who steps out, sees what he is up against and, in faith, takes the second step.

    This site… feels a lot like a second step.

    #TeamAcuff

    • Agreed. When I read this post, I imagine the gut-wrenching fear and turmoil involved in taking the first step, leaving Jon’s former employer. His self-described dream job. That was bravery, to be sure. And I would argue that not just anyone could have taken that first step. But this definitely feels like the second step, a brave second step. And I’m certainly glad to see it.

  16. Melissa Gnoza Ogden

    Jon,

    So glad you and your words are back. Something in what you write is always relevant!

    You are great. I am so grateful you are Brave and share that bravery with all of us as inspiration.

  17. Cindy

    I’m glad to read this now, makes 2.5 years ago when I was throwing up every day, lost 25 lbs and furrowed brow etched on me seem not so alone.

  18. Mandi

    Hey! I just found out I’ve been really brave these last couple weeks! I think I deserve a cupcake. Thanks Jon!

  19. This post was exactly what I needed to hear this morning. Thanks for sharing, Jon. Glad you’re back!

    “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

  20. Sydnie

    Thank you for writing that! I had a moment like this yesterday stepping out on a limb to start (restart?) something new(ish) and almost *almost* had a mild panic when I got in the car at Lowes, so many supplies in hand and wondered what the heck I was doing. This morning the Lord just kind of spoke something to me that encouraged me in this and I hope encourages you as you come back: Do what you do because you love it and because God gave you a heart for it.

    You punched fear in the face. Hard.

    Welcome back!

  21. Truth!! Especially the part about wanting to throw up. Nailed it! 🙂

  22. Hi Jon – really enjoying your blog. I don’t know you but I live near you and see you and Jenny walking sometimes – in the neighborhood across the street from the one you live in. I recognized you from when you’ve spoken at Cross Point – next time I’ll say hi. I appreciate the Brave post – can so relate to many of those feelings! Thank you for reminding us it is bravery and not cowardice. That’s good stuff.

  23. It reminds me of the Theodore Roosevelt quote that Brene Brown uses to open her book “Daring Greatly”.

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

  24. I couldn’t agree more!! Courage is rarely, if ever, what the movies portray, at least in my experience.

    People often call me brave, and I forget that I am. Most of the big things I’ve done in life – the life-changing conversations with people who abused me or the way I listed to God’s voice when he said “Go!” and I RAN – were filled with such nauseating nervous energy that I thought I might, quite literally, explode. I always felt as if there was a hurricane inside of me, and the only way to make the storm pass was to step boldly into the situation you fear the most and deal with it.

    I did it and survived to tell my story. Nothing is more freeing or empowering than to let the chaos in you rage while you step out in faith and do what you’re being called to do.

    Thank you for this awesome post.

    <3L

  25. T. K. Stewart

    It was definitely brave of you and the family to start over again, and you have inspired bravery in so many of us who have been overcome by fear for too long. Thanks for all you do, Jon and Jenny!

  26. Jason

    Welcome back Jon! You’re like a good friend that exists in my head.

  27. Man, I love this definition of bravery. Too often I think it is bravery that pushes the firefighter to go back into the blazing building, or it is bravery that pushed the Iraqi war veteran when he was protecting his country. When it’s defined like that, a writing, creative CPA like me has no place for bravery in his life.

    Now, I am reminded of my own bravery when I push forward with my creative drive.

  28. Karen

    Brilliant essay that I needed to read today. I will add you and your family to my families prayers that you all remain brave.

    Remaining a brave catholic Christian mom in a scary world.

  29. Iryssa

    So true: It’s not that the people who DON’T feel these things are brave…usually it’s that they’re unaware. Anyway, the people we see around us we think are brave and stoic are usually as freaked out as we are, but they’re just as convinced that it’s not bravery, so they hide their feelings.

    People would complicate their lives a lot less if everyone just communicated with one another. 😉

  30. Kathy

    Bravery is trusting that God is good, All the time, as your 21-year-old son dies of cancer right before your eyes, less than a week after being diagnosed. Bravery is taking the next breath when your world has crashed in on you. Bravery is singing “I am Woman, Hear me Roar” over and over again at the top of your lungs as you drive the car to the mom-in-law’s who has dementia and is dying. Bravery is living in a world filled with hurts and pain and unfairness and loss — and finding a way, with God’s help, to keep moving.

  31. TV has really distorted what things like Bravery, Love, Courage, Family, Friendships, Loyalty really are. I am glad you are back. Love your blog!

  32. A grown man making a Miley Cyrus reference? Now, that’s brave.

  33. Mike

    Really needed this today Jon! As I’m chasing my dream this is the type of encouragement that is needed. Made me go back to Joshua 1. Be strong and courageous!

    Thank you

  34. Amanda Allotta

    Thanks for this! It’s so encouraging!

    Every person’s brave looks different, my brave is working full time, raising two sweet daughters, supporting my dreamer (can’t wait for Jenny’s book!), and considering a second master’s degree.

    My brave does make me want to throw up, but I’m SO ready for the awesome along the way!

  35. Yes indeed… Felt it during five stays in Vanderbilt, every doctor’s appointment, and now every day. Throwing up is a reflex now. Tears? Some days, I run out. Then you write about it. I’m in good company.

  36. This is so good and so true Jon, thank you for sharing your journey with us! And thank you for putting into words what bravery and courage looks like.

  37. Cindy

    “With butterflies not just fluttering in your stomach, but drunk on four loko shouting lyrics to Miley Cyrus’ “We can’t stop,” you’re brave.”

    That just slayed me. Great visual! And, you’re right, being brave does NOT look like Lara Croft. At least not for me.

  38. So true Jon. Loved the post. Except that my wife is looking at me like I am crazy because I started laughing loudly about the four loco. Nice too see you back at it.

  39. Deborah Wipf

    Feeling like a coward…check…crying…yep. Thankfully, I’ve skipped the throwing up part! Bravery = being scared out of your mind but doing it anyway. 🙂 Thank you for reminding us that we’re not the only ones feeling wimpy when really we’re being brave.

  40. I so needed every word of this today! I’m getting on the path I’m meant to be but it takes time, education, and lots of BRAVERY! Thanks for sharing!

  41. Bob Brundrett

    Bravery is letting your Mother In Law comment on your blog… #HowAwesomeIsLolly 🙂

  42. So true. I am brave, indeed. I tell others to reject the lie that I still believe much more than I want to admit. But I do admit it, on purpose. I think what this world needs, Jon, is more people like you (and me) who will say yes I have bad days and it’s not always easy – but I keep going and it’s worth it.

    Thank you for sharing your voice, Jon. I needed it. Cheering you on!

  43. Gosh, it’s good to have you back.

  44. Jon, thanks for being brave and showing us how to be brave.

  45. Adam

    Jon- the last few posts have so struck a cord with me. I’m getting ready to uproot my family after 8 1/2 years in one town, leaving a good job and a great church, to move to North Carolina to pursue my dream of teaching and writing. Starting over, holding on to the small voice of God saying “You can do this.”. I am having a hard time seeing it as brave rather than foolhardy or self indulgent. But it is. It’s brave and scary and daring and mortifying and bold and ridiculous and exciting and sad. All at the same time. I don’t know fully how to navigate that other than to jump with as much enthusiasm and energy I can muster. And I might just be yelling at the top of my lungs as I go. My bravery comes with a war cry!

  46. Feeling you on this one. My entire day yesterday was pukey and sweaty over continuing in something I believe in faith God has called me to do. “Did You seriously have me quit my job for THIS?” I used the verses where Moses is arguing with God. I actually used them ON God. I mean, openly. Not even trying to trick Him. Open Bible, find verses, say out loud to God. Then I personalized them so it wasn’t complete plagiarism since clearly I am not Moses. “No one is going to listen to me. I am not qualified. I can name ten people who would be better. I am probably just being controlling. I am probably seeking leadership because I think too highly of myself. As usual. So and so keeps looking at me weird. Pretty sure I’ve already made a few people mad.”

    Thank God for a new day.

    The thing is, I would not have been in such turmoil if I were being cowardly. My turmoil was a result of being already committed to obey and seeing full well the range of trials I will face. I just needed to wrestle with them for a day. You know, to show them who’s boss and stuff.

    You’ve put words to my experience. Thanks for turning that prism ever so slightly so we can see things in a new way and not feel so dumb. That is pretty much what you do.

  47. Amy

    Oh man. That’s bravery that’s been doing all of that to me for the past month?

    Because I thought it was fear and cowardice and inability.

  48. Nic

    I teach my kids that you can’t be brave if you’re not scared, because bravery is defined this way: when you are terribly scared, but you do the right thin anyway. I also specify for my son (who is a 6yo crier), it’s ok to cry, as long as it doesn’t stop you from doing what you must do.

  49. Katie

    So true. Thanks Jon. Cheers to courage and bravery.

  50. I love this Jon.

    So many times that we are brave, people just assume that it’s just the way we are and say that they could never do what we do. But they don’t realize that we go through the same exact emotions that they too would go through should they choose to step out in faith. It’s so hard and it sucks sometimes.

    Thank you for being honest and real and showing us that you feel exactly the way we do when we follow our heart.

  51. Jon,

    Thank you for not just writing about bravery…. ANYONE can do that. You’ve written about it AND demonstrated it. God used you to help teach me to be brave. It’s not pretty, but it’s AWESOME!

  52. Thanks for describing bravery in all its raw messiness! Wow, good words as I’m pressing lots of old doubting voices while courage is calling me to move forward. Isn’t a relief that we don’t have to act like we’re more than we are? We just move forward moment by moment, with a few good friends to steady and encourage us along the way!

  53. Jim

    Well said Jon. I’m working on a project that could change my life (for the better) and I’m REALLY struggling with fear. My stomach and back ache. And I’m trying to “lean” into this but it’s hard. Some of the new age books will say, IGNORE the results! Just throw it up to the Universe. Even if you’re meeting with David Foster about your demo (not my situation) he’s only a man! No he’s a man that could change my life! So I appreciate Jon you giving an honest view of what bravery looks like — because while I loved Gladiator — who didn’t!? — I don’t think real bravery is standing in the coliseum with nerves of steal mocking the emperor with your blood drenched sword. I bet a real Gladiator, even the great ones, threw up before each fight. That’s how I’m feeling — luckily I won’t die a grisly death if this project doesn’t work out! 🙂

  54. ISABEL

    VC TEM ESTE LIVRO EM PORTUGUES?

  55. What’s the difference between bravery and confidence?

    I like what James has to say about confidence here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDHzfMV9a3s&feature=share&list=UUNeCzet_WoNEaysTCgZSdkQ

  56. Huong

    Aww shucks! I was waiting for an image of you in a cape too! Regardless, you and Jenny are rocking your superhero capes! 😉

  57. This was brilliant, and very encouraging. Thank you! Samwise was terrified but looked fear in the face and charged at it. 🙂

  58. Steve

    I think you need to be brave to be a creative. That reminds me of something actor Alan Alda once said:

    “Be brave enough to live creatively. The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You cannot get there by bus, only by hard work, risking and by not quite knowing what you are doing. What you will discover will be wonderful: Yourself.”

    I think you’ve shown all of us how to be brave and be a creative this year. Thanks for teaching me how to be brave as well.

  59. justanotherwilson

    A perfect post for the High School student trying to do it right. Thanks!

  60. Raffeal Sears

    Jon, I needed that today! Thanks for the reminder!

  61. Thanks Jon! I really needed that. It reminded me of the Theodore Roosevelt “The Man in the Arena” but hitting home to the personal struggle that we have inside us. I am very thankful for the post, it will be on my reading list to remind myself to press on.

  62. Becky

    “you can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.”
    ― Stephen King, On Writing

    Looks like you are on the right path Jon. Godspeed—-

  63. Cheri

    This was so perfect for me today. I am trying to be brave and continue to feel like a wimp as I struggle to stay strong in what I think God is calling me to do. Thanks for the reminder that it’s ok to feel like throwing up and crying! 🙂

    p.s. love the new blog! excited to see what you both have to share with us. thanks for your inspiration! #teamacuff

  64. Aaron Hoffman

    “Bravery makes you lose weight or gain lots of stress pounds […]

    Next time you cry those tears that feel so stupid […]

    With butterflies not just fluttering in your stomach, but drunk on four loko…”

    ———

    I don’t know that I’ve ever seen you write such an unabashedly, unstereotypically-Christian, politically incorrect, honest assessment.

    Thank you, Jon. It’s good to have you back.

  65. Sweet, Holy Jesus! This spoke to me tonight. Thanks, Jon.

  66. That whole four loko thing explains why those butterflies feel so strong. Who let them drink, anyway????

    Great post. Thanks for the encouragement. 🙂

  67. Word.

    Six months ago I “outed” myself from the bipolar closet and it was terrifying, but I know it was right. This basically clarifies all those emotions for me. Amazing. Good stuff, Jon!

  68. This made me cry. So thankful for you!

  69. Thanks Jon, that’s just what I needed to hear tonight as I am working on a dream to fruition now. I feel a lot braver after all of the nausea for sure!!

  70. I’m expecting twins, work 70+ hours a week, and am trying to hustle towards my dream somewhere inbetween. I needed this. Thanks, Jon.

  71. Marie-Claude

    Oh… Thank you for this. I might be able to stop beating myself up now. Thank you so much.

  72. Amber

    If I’m ever caught singing “We Can’t Stop,” someone please cut me off of *whatever* I’m drinking.

  73. Micaela

    Thanks Jon, I’ve gained so much appreciation and respect for you and your books /blogs since i discovered you a few months ago. I needed to read this today. I found out i got a huge promotion last week and am scared out of my mind. Everything in me for several days told me i was too ill equipped and underqualified for a global managerial position in my early twenties. What made me re-think that was when my own coworkers expressed their doubt that I’d keep the position, seeing as i am a woman and I’m so young. From then on, I’ve been listening to your YouTube videos, reading your books, and praying a LOT. God has used you a ton. We’ll see what this week holds, but if there’s anything I know, it’s that I’m gonna need to be brave. Thanks again for the post & for your constant encouragement to live an awesome life!

  74. Thanks for this. I really needed this tonight.

  75. You just have no idea how frickin’ much I needed to read this on this sleepless night. In the morning, against the odds I’m facing, I’m choosing bravery. Thank you.

  76. Elizabeth

    I like the article, but resent the fact that you insinuate a tomboy brunette is better than a blonde to marry? Blonde hair doesn’t signify stupidity, or not being worthy of powerful positions. I must dye my hair brown to appear smart, more pure, or to be on the arm of an “important” man? You absolutely make the hot blonde sound like a toy during your immaturity you needed to be done with and grow up, don’t be that guy.

  77. Scott Mears

    I really appreciate this post today. In a couple hours, I start a new job in a new industry with all new people…. I’m feeling quite “brave” to say the least.

  78. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I love the way you put a big idea into simple words that are easily applied and understood for life. Your books, blog, and just overall ideas on life have really propelled my husband and I forward in living our dream daily. We are being AWESOME by doing more of what we love each day while hustling with what we have now to create more space for our dream in the future. With each success we first praise God for His loving grace and then we thank Jon Acuff!

  79. Cicely

    When I go to the boss to speak out about a difficult subject others are afraid to speak or when I stand up in church to debate on hot topics against elders or those much more popular in the congregation than me, or whatever it may be … it all comes with a price. Its risky. Some like me more, some like me less, some don’t care. But based on the feedback I get, many do not seem to understand that being brave and speaking from the heart comes with a lot of anxiety, nausea, lost sleep before and after, and wishing I did not have to do it at all – that someone else would speak up instead – how I would rather go under a rock but know that I cannot. I appreciate the validation this blog provides. Thanks for sharing.

  80. Kirsten OQuinn

    I had to be brave yesterday as I stood up in front of my entire Creative Writing class and 5 professors at my college to complete a dramatic reading of my 3 page memoir piece. It was very deep and personal and I almost didn’t get past the title. But I did 🙂

  81. Josh

    I thought Merida was Brave?

    (did someone beat me to it? the comment thread was too long to read, haha)

  82. JD

    I think the real bravery is those butterflies shouting Miley Cyrus lyrics. I bet they threw up a little as well.

  83. Denise Moore

    Thank you. You have no idea how deeply this spoke to my need today. I will continue to be brave. Every. Single. Day.

  84. Thank you Jon, and Jenny, for helping to show me what brave is and for helping me to step out and do some things I wouldn’t have done had it not been for your example. You inspire me and I continue to pray for you and your family on this journey. Keep the puke bucket close just in case and keep being brave!

  85. Emily

    Jon,

    I know this is an older post but I wanted to thank you for writing it. My husband just lost his job and he’s now about 12 hours away from me working until I can move up there when finish my job in May. It has been really difficult. I’m a teacher so all day with my students I always feel like I’m putting on a show of bravery and then I come home and break down.

    I know now that breaking down is being brave. God knew that this was exactly what I needed to hear right now.

    Keep going.