“I’m only brave when I have to be. Simba, being brave doesn’t mean you go looking for trouble.”
-Mufasa, The Lion King
This is from what is probably one of my favorite moments in all of Disney.
It’s a father talking to his son, who has just made a terrible, dangerous mistake. Instead of insulting his son, Mufasa drives home the point that what Simba did was wrong, and why it was wrong. He explains to his son that while Simba was trying to be something great, he misunderstood what “greatness,” or “bravery,” really is. And afterward, he makes it clear that he still loves his son, no matter his mistakes, even laughing with him beneath the starlit sky.
Not only is this a beautiful moment between parent and child, but that lesson itself is one a great number of people, especially kids and teenagers, desperately need to learn.
“Bravery” is not bravery when it’s artificial. It’s not about doing the biggest, most death-defying stunts. It’s not about going into another person’s territory and having your way. It’s not in breaking things or hurting people or doing stupid stuff. Bravery doesn’t happen when you go towards trouble without thinking anything except, “This will go my way and I will come out perfectly fine for it.” No, bravery is not any of those things.
Bravery is what happens when trouble comes to you, suddenly, without warning. Bravery is when you are afraid, and take action anyway. It’s when you know you may not come out of something bad alive, and go in anyway, not for yourself, but for someone else.
Bravery isn’t running towards danger, or taking cheap shots at its back. Bravery is standing calm and steady in its path, or walking calmly towards it, to draw it away from others.
Not literally, of course. When there’s a crisis, speed is your friend! 😉
Basically, paraphrasing Mufasa: real bravery is a response to trouble, not an active pursuit of it.