There are, when you look and even when you don’t, a great many people out there encouraging us to get free, be brave, go wild, live out our dreams and become our true selves.
Wild women everywhere, if they had their way, and rightly so, I think. I am one such encourager.
But what does it mean, this courage, braveness, wildness? Everyone is telling us we must do it, be it, but nobody is explaining what that looks like.
I am one who believes if a belief system has no practical application, it’s not useful to us. It’s one thing to have a philosophy, but if we don’t know how to bring that philosophy into the living out of our everyday lives, it’s just an escape, isn’t it?
This exhortation for us to be wild and free as women sounds like something so many of us want. But what does that mean? What does it look like?
Because if I encourage a woman to be brave and to step outside of the life that she feels ensnares her, into wildness and freedom, and that woman leaves her family or abandons her relationship, or throws her job away, or walks away from her life, then has she been helped to do anything perhaps other than self-sabotage?
For many women, courage absolutely means breaking ties with toxic people and making boundaries, it will mean leaving abusive relationships and codependent situations and oppressive regimes. For many of us, leaving a church or a marriage or a home town or a job that’s killing us will absolutely do us good, and open the door to greater freedoms and opportunities.
But for some, those actions will be in themselves a form of escape, a kind of relinquishing of responsibility, a way of leaving life, rather than coming home to it.
Bravery is not abandonment. Bravery is standing up in the life you chose, and choosing forwards toward healing, reconciliation and peace with self, with others, and with our God.
Courage is not cursing our circumstances and relinquishing responsibility for them. Courage means giving up resentment, blame, unforgiveness, victim thinking and inaction as ways of coping and escaping. Courage means plumbing our own deep wells of wisdom and knowledge and truth and choosing from those places, rather than ascribing responsibility for our thoughts, beliefs and conscience to others. Courage means looking in the mirror and asking the person we see there what is best for us, rather than allowing our power to be taken from us. And courage often means staying and dealing, not running and beginning the same mess over again.
Wildness is not permission to be unfettered, vulgar or rebellious. Wildness is not refusal to belong, to settle or to sit peacefully with others. It’s not wanton disagreement or arbitrary opposition to organisation or authority. Wildness is belonging to yourself first. It’s being able to sit for hours in your own company and not become angry, afraid or frustrated. Wildness is acknowledging you must, and can, nourish, feed, support and protect yourself. Wildness is choosing your own teacher, mentor, master and tribe. Wildness is pulling fear apart, yours and others, and examining it’s entrails, allowing them to speak to you about the past and the future. Wildness is sitting quietly when others try to lead you and teach you, knowing always they are human just like you, and God sees them as your equal in every way, and thus, so can you.
Wildness does not mean running away. It does not mean permission for violence, anger, retribution or abandonment. It does not mean you belong to no one. Wildness simply mean you do not call the institutions and the safe places others cling to your home. Wildness means you trust your own resources and skills and ability to learn, as well as your capacity to survive, thrive, teach and defend what you love.
Wildness often means staying when it would be easier for everyone if you did not, simply because there is unfinished business, and only you have the courage to finish it.
Don’t blindly follow your attraction to rebels and outsiders, simply because you are hungry for change and power. To learn what you need to know, you seek teachers, mothers, sisters, not misfits and runaways who will one day need to return and rebuild their own bridges.
The braveness, courage and wilds you seek may not necessarily be found by breaking away from everything you have built, bred or belonged to, or reinventing yourself as someone those in your past life won’t recognise. If you are looking to become someone else, or like someone else, or trying to leave rather than come home to, be cautious. Anger is not courage. Bitterness is not bravery. The wasteland of desertion and self-imposed isolation is not the wilds you seek. All you have left, if you have ever left anything, is within you. The journey home is a path that leads closer to you and all you love, not away from them. Whilst you may need to take a physical journey to become more who you truly are, be careful you do not sabotage all God has given you to show you both who He is, and who you are, along the way.
Brave one, all you seek is within you. You need only have the courage to look there.