Ten years ago, I sat in a coaching training course and witnessed our trainer, a woman who had already impressed me with her soulfulness, call out a man for being late – and disrespectful. This may not seem remarkable. Except, she did it in the most loving, sincere and powerful way – and we all sat there, stunned.
I knew in that moment that I needed to hire her as my coach.
Melanie is one of the bravest women that I know. She speaks to your soul. She names what you are dancing around and afraid to say. And she loves with a devotion that I saw that very first day – that you-are-not-going-to-hide-from-me-because-I-see-your-beauty-and-ugliness-and-love-you-all-the-same-ness.
And in that love, you rise.
I asked Melanie to kick off the This Is Brave series here – and show us a glimpse of what brave looks like for her. This was her response.
What is bravery but a place inside we visit to know our own voice – to take a stand for our unique carbon-based brilliance.
Sounds poetic, doesn’t it? We know the truth about being brave. It puts on our knees. It drags us through the mud and breaks us apart so that old parts of us die, giving way to our next emergent self.
I’m the kind of gal that takes lots of dares. Mostly I’m just inappropriate and then it looks like I’m very courageous.
The bravest thing I ever did was to find my voice and with it take my stand for myself. Because finding my voice often meant speaking up for myself when faced with disrespect or unkindness, one may look at my actions as setting others straight. Often we call that kind of speaking “having boundaries”, but in earnest it is not about having boundaries that we enforce on others as though we are border control police. What a waste of time to patrol others behavior so I feel safe or seen.
No, that is not what was happening. When I told my Native American elder I could no longer be under his tutelage because I couldn’t separate the angry man from the deep teachings I wasn’t establishing boundaries, I was being taught to love myself and to take care of my precious soul. I was been asked by my soul to honor it.
This how I learned to become brave. My voice is here to speak my truth. To speak truth with compassion for another maintains our shared humanity. To speak it without reservation or the need to justify maintains my humanity.
In 1999 while working in Albuquerque, NM, my boss tried to make me an example of what happens when you don’t have sex with him on a business trip by yelling at me at a staff meeting. He bellowed and used adjectives that were unbecoming to both of us. The room was quiet, the stares were fierce, the staff was paralyzed. I was willing. I walked closer to my employer and with clarity that rage gives us said “You will not yell at me. You will lower your voice, now. You have no power over me. The only control you have is a paycheck and that is no control at all. I am not that woman that gets yelled at. You are not that man that does that. Do not mistake me for someone I am not.” He apologized and within two weeks I quit and returned home to California.
In a quieter, more compassionate capacity my voice used me (yes, it used me) to support awareness of a fellow human traveler. I was standing in one of those make-your-own salad bar lines. The gentleman next to me struck up pleasantries. We were laughing as we made our salads together. When he got to the Chinese salad he began to mimic Chinese. I turned to him and gently said “You are better man than that. I know that you are even in these few minutes we had together.” He wasn’t an unkind man, just unaware.
I believe this beautiful Universe is a classroom for our learning. I no longer need dramatic events to help me know my voice, though they occur from time to time. And, because we live in a world of reciprocity, there are those that lovingly pull me aside to help me learn as well.
These days I dare myself to love others. I dare to speak love into this world by getting up on stages. My voice gave me courage to take a stand for myself. Now I take it for all of us.