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We all have our own unique brave stories. Your brave and my brave will look differently, but each of our courageous stories have one common thread – it all starts in our fear. Bravery is born out of our response to fear. We cannot have a brave until we have a fear.

As a child, I seemed to always be afraid of everything – scared of the dark, scared of sharks, scared of tornados, scared of falling off my bike, scared of spiders, the list could go on (and on). I remember going home from slumber parties afraid. My very first memory is running into the house screaming because there was a spider on the sidewalk. I was timid and easily frightened.

Then, in my mid-twenties, I faced a serious illness that changed how I viewed the world. After facing treatments and surgery, both the big and little fears didn’t seem to have the same hold on me. It has taken time and life experience, but I have learned three important ways to push through my timidity and fear and face whatever life is throwing at me, or those I love, with a brave heart.

1. Run toward your fear

Recently, I heard a speaker share about fear, and she told the story about how she learned as a girl if you came across a certain type of poisonous snake that running from it, the snake will move faster towards you. Stopping, the snake will also stop. But if you run toward the snake it will run fast away from you.

It seems counterintuitive to run towards what feels threatening, but the harder we run from our fearful situation, the faster it runs after us. When I got so sick, I was no longer able to run from my fears. As I spent so much time without distraction, I had to choose to allow fear to chase me through life, or to chase fear away. Facing and running towards our fears is not an easy task, it takes all the courage we have.

2. Who you surround yourself with matters

When I was sick, I realized how many people cared and loved me. People from work, from church, my friends, my neighbors, they all surrounded me, and I knew I wasn’t alone. The love, acceptance and care we receive from friends and family matters as we run towards our fears. For each courageous step I have taken in my life, I can tell you the story of someone who had encouraged, loved, accepted and pushed me to keep running.

Brave is contagious. Our braves feed off each other. Let’s encourage and support each other to keep running at our fears. Even when it feels like we can’t go another step – call up a friend and tell them you need to hear, “You can do it. You are brave!” Saying our fears out loud diminishes fear’s power.

3. Change takes time

As I began to heal and feel better from being so ill, I felt as though I could take on the world (and my fears). How could I let fear be a part of my life, after I was so sick? I lived in the high of the moment for a while, until I came crashing back to earth in panic.

Changing our stance towards fear takes time. I started meeting with a counselor, because it was the most sustainable way I could keep running towards my fear. I also came to the realization that courage was not a one-time decision, but something I needed to keep choosing.

What fear are you running towards?