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When Queen Victoria directed the creation of the Victoria Cross, the Commonwealth’s highest award for gallantry, the original design carried the words “For the Brave”. She had that changed to “For Valour”. In her estimation, any man who went into battle was brave.

Until I read that story while researching about the Victoria Cross, I had always thought of bravery as the ultimate display of courage or daring. Bravery comes in many forms.

I agree with Queen Victoria, any who venture into battle are indeed brave. That doesn’t mean they don’t feel fearful, they do what they believe must be done. In less enlightened times, soldiers who became overwhelmed by battle and broke were considered to be cowards. They were executed. Today, we understand this as PTSD or ‘operational stress injury’.

On 9/11 I hadn’t been listening to the news. A business caller mentioned to me almost in passing that ‘some idiot flew a plane into a tower in New York’. I thought he meant a small plane and didn’t give it much notice figuring I’d see the report when I checked news sites later.

A short while later my parish priest called in tears. He’d heard a report that over 200 firemen had entered the towers and none had been heard from since. It was then that I realized something huge was going on. Those fireman had indeed displayed bravery.

First responders, police, fire, ambulance etc do this every day. They rush into situations to serve and protect the rest of us. We tend to take their everyday bravery for granted. It makes them no less brave.

People who stand up to bullying of any kind are brave. While most bullies are cowards at heart, they can generate a mob rule that could turn on anyone who dares to stand up to the bully.

We’re seeing bullying at all levels of our social structure including so called leaders of government. I wonder if the day will come that enough people who can influence outcomes will have the courage and fortitude to stand up to those bullies. When we’re led by political bullies, we tend to forget that bullying is wrong.

Women who speak up and expose the actions of abusers are brave. They know they are taking a chance of not being believed and subjected to public scorn. They also take the chance that an abuser may retaliate physically. Men and boys who speak out about being abused or assaulted are also brave. With the perception that males are perpetrators not victims of abuse, they are often mocked for speaking up.

Bravery is often displayed in a spontaneous manner. There is a something that needs doing and people react. They don’t think about consequences until later. Like the person who snatches a child out of the way of a speeding car. It’s not until later the person even considers they both may have been killed had the timing been different.

Not all bravery is witnessed. When a person is dealing with personal challenges, what seems like a normal act for most becomes an act of bravery for that person. For example, an agoraphobic person has to muster up courage to even walk out the door of their home. When they venture into crowds and unfamiliar spaces it takes determination and bravery to accomplish that.

Do we ever stop to think about the many acts of bravery which happen around us every day? We notice the big ones, we miss the little ones but they are all acts of bravery for the person involved.