Building Courage Through Small Acts of Bravery

Updated: Apr 14

By Katy Epling

God's Brave Women - Katy's Story


“Mommy, come walk the plank with me!”


Splashes, squeals, and laughter surrounded us as my 12-year-old son tugged pleadingly on my arm. Our Spring Break cruise that year was a welcome respite from snowy Ohio. And on this particular day, while the ship was moored in Barbados, my family enjoyed an excursion on the Jolly Roger, complete with a pirate crew and (of course) the plank.


I glanced at my husband, who was firmly planted in his seat, then back at my son before shaking my head. “Nope, sorry, kiddo. I’m just going to watch.”


I hated seeing the disappointment in his eyes, but I would not be shaken. I wish I were skinnier. I wish I were more adventurous. I wish I weren’t so insecure.


I wish… I wish… I wish…


I thought about a friend of mine who inspires me with her adventurous spirit. “I wish I were more like Sara,” I told my husband. “She wouldn’t think twice about jumping off that plank.” I wish I were the kind of person who doesn’t hesitate to join in and try new things. I wish I were brave. That’s just not who I am.


Then it hit me: says who?


Who decides if I get to be adventurous? Who chooses how insecure I am? Who declares whether I get to be the kind of person who tries new things—who walks the plank (figuratively and literally)?


And here’s the answer: I do.


I get to decide. I am not fated to live a life in the shadows if I don’t want to. Did you get that? Because it’s true for you, too. We don’t have to follow someone’s pre-conceived notions of who we are—not even our own. We get to choose the labels we wear. We get to decide to be who God has made us to be.


"We don’t have to follow someone’s pre-conceived notions of who we are—not even our own. We get to choose the labels we wear. We get to decide to be who God has made us to be."


And how do we do it? One decision at a time.


I walked the plank that day. It felt good. OK, it actually felt a little scary and uncomfortable. But I did it anyway, and that part felt great.


Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, This is ridiculous. This woman calls herself brave because she jumped into water? I get it. It’s a small thing… but I think that’s exactly the point. Sometimes bravery is doing the next small thing.


After that day, I felt a little shift inside me. It wasn’t about what I did, but about the small choice I made to be brave.


"Sometimes bravery is doing the next small thing... It wasn’t about what I did, but about the small choice I made to be brave."

A few days later when we flew home and went through the customs line, we were greeted by an agent who didn’t seem to be having a great day. My first instinct was to keep my eyes down and my mouth shut, but when I saw her beautifully-painted acrylic nails, I mustered up the courage for another small brave thing. “I love your nails!” I told her with a smile. Her entire demeanor changed in an instant. She chatted with us and wished us well, then greeted the next waiting group with a smile instead of a sneer.


I know. Nothing heroic. Nothing noteworthy, even. But as is true for so very much of life, when it comes to courage, it’s not the big moments that really define who we are. It is about daily feeding what you want to grow. And bravery is a garden I choose to cultivate.


"But as is true for so very much of life, when it comes to courage, it’s not the big moments that really define who we are. It is about daily feeding what you want to grow. And bravery is a garden I choose to cultivate."


Sometimes a small step of bravery means striking up a conversation with a stranger. Sometimes it means speaking up when the people pleaser in me says, “No, it’s OK. I don’t want to cause a problem.” Sometimes it’s stepping out of my comfort zone in trying something new, reaching for a goal, knowing that even if I fail, I have succeeded in building my courage in Christ—and setting a great example for my kids.


Because failure happens, too. Just because I choose to be brave doesn’t mean things always go the way I hoped. Not every stranger responds favorably to a kind word. And sometimes I try for something new and don’t get it. It’s humbling… but it’s still fruitful. It reminds me of why I’m practicing bravery in the first place.


Because ultimately, building courage through small acts of bravery isn’t about us at all. It’s not about feeling pride. We practice being brave because it prepares us for the small, divine moments that God drops in our laps.


"Because ultimately, building courage through small acts of bravery isn’t about us at all. It’s not about feeling pride. We practice being brave because it prepares us for the small, divine moments that God drops in our laps."


I want to boldly speak love to the people in front of me in case I’m speaking to someone God put there because they need to hear it. I want to pursue opportunities that are exciting to me in case it’s a desire God placed in my heart. And I want to trust that His purpose is being accomplished through me, regardless of the outcome I see.


I'm going through a season in life where just getting out of bed every day and showing up is an act of courage. Every hard conversation that I have with my kids, when everything inside me is screaming, "I don't want to talk about this anymore! I just want to nod and smile!" is an act of courage. I am DAILY being called upon to be brave, and it is only through God's strength and through His gentle leading to build my courage over time that I am able to do it.


"I am DAILY being called upon to be brave, and it is only through God's strength and through His gentle leading to build my courage over time that I am able to do it."


So listen up, friend. YOU ARE BRAVE. And you don't have to fight a lion or face a giant to prove it. Just be brave enough to take the next step in front of you.


What you feed grows. Choose to cultivate courage.


Brave Woman Manifesto


Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story!

And by the way...

You are Brave!


No matter what you are facing, God has made you in His image, which means you are full of His strength and power. I would love to connect with you more and give you a FREE