She looked particularly cute that morning – more grown up somehow than the day before, even – and I wanted a quick picture before we got into the car to head to school. As she leaned over on the kitchen counter to begrudgingly humor my request, she smiled her new bashful, smirky smile she’s been smiling for the past week….ever since her top front tooth fell out.
I took the picture, and as we walked to the door to leave I asked her why she’s been smiling like that lately: lips tightly shut, with the corners of her mouth barely turned upward.
“It’s just how I feel like smiling.”
Then I asked, “Is it because of your tooth? Because sweetie, I think it’s adorable. I really do. I thought you’d be proud of that hole!”
She just kind of shrugged as she picked her library books up from the table. “I don’t know….”
So without giving it much thought, I mentioned how her friend from church lost the same tooth recently.
And how her friend’s daddy posted a picture of her hole-y grin on Instagram.
And then, as we walked across the garage to get into the car, she said, “Really? She did that? Well, then…..you can take another picture of me.”
And she stopped and smiled, her real, genuine toothless grin.
Once I got home from dropping her off, I flipped back and forth between the two pictures. One of a bashful, restrained little girl…the other of a little girl unashamed of anything about herself. My girl was self-conscious about something (which doesn’t happen very often with her free-spirited sense of self), but was made brave by someone else’s boldness.
She was bashful….but her friend’s boldness made her brave.
It’s profound, really. It’s a glimpse of what happens on a much larger scale with those of us who are grown and facing much larger issues than a gaping grin. We are made brave when someone else dares to be bold.
An acquaintance at church shares her story of panic and depression in an on-stage testimony, and you make a beeline to talk to her after the service.
Your sister steps out and, despite what you know for a fact she has always struggled with, does something new and daring that leaves you thinking, “Well…if she can do that…..”
A friend opens up about her marriage struggles, and suddenly you feel like you can talk about your own issues with your husband or your kids or even that stupid fight you had the other night after the kids were in bed that left you weeping into your pillow.
Our bravery is contagious.
Our boldness is catching.
And our bashfulness? It can’t survive. Because God has designed us for community. What I see so often is that community gets warped into a contest, with each of us somehow forgetting that we’re all on the same team and fighting the same battles. But I was reminded that morning that the same crippling force inside us that makes us awkwardly compare ourselves to each other can be reframed into a driving force. Instead of using that energy to conceal who we are, we begin to use it to become the most natural, most beautiful, most courageous forms of who we were made to be.
When we look at each other’s bravery, our “I could never” becomes “maybe I can.”
Our “but not me” turns into “what if I did?”
Our “I can’t tell anyone” becomes “It’s not just me.”
Bravery is contagious, and every epidemic starts somewhere. So friend, how can you be brave today? How can you take a step of bravery for yourself…and how might it embolden someone else? You may never know how your bravery can help someone else along.