Sunday, July 29, 2012


I have been struggling to know what to write about the film Brave. You would think that I could handle it. I have been writing on building bravehearts for a while. But, this film has perplexed me.

Is it really about being brave? Or, is it about a mother and daughter relationship where the daughter is driven to exasperation and actually loses heart and acts foolishly, neither mother or daughter right in the process. Or, is the bravery in each one eventually realizing she was wrong and restoring what was broken? There seems to be no real bravery, doing what is right no matter what. Unless it is right to rebel so you can pursue who you are and your dreams. Perhaps the bravery comes from doing something, even if it is rebellion. But, is that being brave?

I watched Brave in Dillon, Colorado with two of my brave twenty-something daughters. Both of them have pursued dreams and "who they are" without making their mother turn into a bear!

Pursuing "who you are" by using any means possible, even evil ones to change a mother, is cowardice. If Princess Merida had been truly brave, what would she have done? She certainly showed strength in archery and conviction, but not wisdom which channels passion to become a brave person. Being brave is more than being strong, it is being strong for the right reason.

Perhaps it is the ambiguity of the film that perplexes me. Merida is not a clear picture of a brave young lady. I can point to dozens of real and fictional girls I know who are brave, for the right reasons and pursuing dreams the right way. The mix of feelings between mother and daughter make it hard to know who is right and who is wrong, who is brave and who is a coward. And, in the end, was it bravery that pushed Merida to mend the tapestry and the broken relationship? Or, was she driven by emotions of an ambiguous relationship with her mother and not brave but passionate?

Brave seems like a film to which I would have enjoyed taking my younger children, although I would sort out the concerns of a mother who exasperates and a daughter who disobeys, and explore a better way. I would talk about what it means to be brave. Overall, we enjoyed the film for different reasons.  I just haven't figured out the bravery in Brave.

One thing seems clear to me. To build a braveheart is more than teaching someone to "embrace one's own identity" as one film critic said. To build a braveheart is to teach a child to do right, even when others don't. I wish for a clearer model for children than Merida.

While the ambiguity may be real, the lack of a clear example of bravery that we want children to follow leaves me empty. There is a place to explore the issues of family relationships, but lets not set them up as models to inspire. We need examples where children can say, "I want to be like her," and parents are pleased to applaud and say, "Yes, be like her."

P.S. Here are three examples to try. While flawed, they were brave the right way: Lucy in Chronicles of Narnia, Anne of Green Gables, and in real life, Corrie ten Boom. Who would you add?

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Power of Conviction

I am busy most of the year. You probably are, too. And your children. The busy days have little margin and sometimes in the evening the best I can do is to read a couple of lines from an old Louis L'amour novel before sleep conquers me.

Those days aren't all bad. They are rich times and I feel alive, like getting ready for a big football game or opening night of a play. It is exciting. But, when I am busy, there is a good chance that I will make a mistake and either react too strongly or skip over something that should have been addressed. If I haven't thought carefully before the busy time, it is harder to make the right choice.

When we and our children are faced with choices to make, we do one of three things:
1.  We react without thinking, which is foolish.
2.  We don't act because we don't notice or we don't see the importance.
3.  We do what is right with courage, which is wise.

The Thinker
Being too busy results in being foolish or not acting when we should. Our children become too busy with activity and information. This is probably one of the reasons that teenagers sometimes make foolish mistakes or miss needs: their minds are busy with feelings, and people, and questions so they can either react or don't even notice when the trash needs taken out or someone is talking

To make a wise choice and to act on it with courage instead of reacting or ignoring takes conviction. 

While a belief is something we know, a conviction is a belief we will act on. A conviction is an important part of ourselves, developed over time as ideas and beliefs are sifted and reworked. Before the critical moment of making a choice to do what is right, a conviction to guide and grab is needed.

The problem is that convictions don't happen if a child's mind is too busy with too much activity or information.

Convictions happen in minds that have time to take big ideas and let them become a part of the child. A conviction needs big ideas, so we need to place big ideas in our child's life. But, there must also be time to wrestle and integrate those beliefs into lives. Stimulus all of the time and always feeling hurried (who created five minute passing times between classes?) hurt developing convictions.  Before a child can be brave to do right, he or she needs time to have developed a conviction.

In a recent New York Times piece, "Decline of the Big Idea," Neil Gabler says "We are like the farmer who has too much wheat to make flour. We are inundated with so much information that we wouldn't have time to process it even if we wanted to, and most of us don't want to." He ends his article with this:  "What the future portends is more and more information--Everests of it.  There won't be anything we won't know. But there will be no one thinking about it."

The overload of busy minds will not only ruin the pursuit of big ideas, it will end bravery that comes from conviction.

Gabler also says, "In the past, we collected information not simply to know things. That was only the beginning. We also collected information to convert it into something larger than facts and ultimately more useful..." We have become so busy in our schedules and minds that we don't take time to turn information into conviction.

For what will our children stand up? For what will they risk friends, career, or life?  Not a fact, not a tweet, not a line from a new comedy. They will stand up for convictions that have had time to settle into their pores and soak into the very marrow of their bones. They will risk for important things that they have been able to move from information to belief to conviction.

How can we help our children? 

Intentionally and selectively cut off information streams. Aggressively give space in life to talk and think.  Trips in the car don't have to be filled with screens to placate cries of "he hit me," but can be filled with quiet and conversation for thoughts; it is okay to stare out of the window and count cows!  One of my twenty-something daughters just reminded me of the one-hour-a-day-of-screens rule we had when they were young.  It wasn't too bad most of the week, but Saturday mornings were tough!  If they could get me to watch with them, the time expanded. I watched some great cartoons back then, piled on the couch together.

Dinners at home, where everyone sits until the others are finished creates collaborative family thinking; it really is okay to have them wait to be excused!

You can make a schedule where chunks of time called "thinking time" or "nothing" are scheduled so they happen. Everyone can pose like "The Thinker," wouldn't that be interesting?

Read quality and time tested books to children, pray together, share family devotions, go for walks.

Where can you intentionally introduce your children to big ideas and give them time to settle those into convictions?

Your example is powerful. Share with your children what is important to you. Stand for something yourself.  Act on your convictions so your children know people do that. When was the last time you stood for something important and your children knew it? Can you list your top ten convictions, the beliefs and ideas for which you will take a stand?

Good choices will follow conviction. Choosing to do what is right requires knowing what is right before crunch time and then being willing to do something about it. Convictions developed over time from big ideas take on feet in our children's lives.

Children with conviction become bravehearts.

I hope you find ways to let big ideas seep into your child's life and grab their hearts as convictions.