As I was typing I noticed that I was using the BOLD function to highlight titles. I also used it to point out areas that I deemed to be important; areas that I wanted the reader to notice. It dawned on me that the word bold, is now used in a way that is very different from how I was originally familiar with it.
When I was young, if it was said that, ‘she’s very bold’ it would NOT have been a good thing. I did not want to see this comment on my report card. Children did not aspire to be bold. To be bold meant that we had been rude, that we had overstepped our bounds. Most often being bold described a child speaking to an adult in a way that might question the adult’s authority or their opinions.
In some ways, this is similar to the typing function, bold. Children who were bold definitely called attention to themselves. The stood out from the rest of us well-behaved little soldiers and I for one, couldn’t even imagine how they might live long enough to make it out of childhood! It was made very clear in our household that being bold did not win us any favour.
Today, bold has taken on a different meaning. To be bold now refers less to being rude and much more to being brave. When I watched the Olympics and saw the sports of Snowboard Cross and Big Air, I heard the commentators describe certain athletes as making bold moves with their ‘tricks’. These comments were made in an extremely complementary way. In no way were these athletes rude, but they certainly seemed brave. They were bold in the very best way.
Part of my re-defining of the word bold and of becoming comfortable with stepping into becoming bold is recognizing some of the people in my life who have chosen to make bold moves or to live boldly.
Last week I witnessed an act of boldness in my front hallway. I had met with a group of my former students who are now at the post-high school stage of life. These students and I have worked together for about seven years on our project to build schools in Kenya. We meet more or less monthly. Some of the members of this group are away at school so they can only meet when they are in town. Last week we had a small membership and when people were saying their good-byes at the front door, one boy, Tyler, asked if he could speak to me for a minute.
Tyler has been a part of this group since it’s beginning. Currently he is the only male member of the group. For the past four years, since I left teaching and this group went on to high school and beyond, Tyler has not missed one meeting. For the first three of these past four years, Tyler has arrived early to the meeting, said hello, and then has said NOT ONE WORD until our meeting was nearing the end and then he would say, ‘Well, I have to go.’ I would always thank him for coming and tell him I’d look forward to seeing him next time. At the next meeting I would meet him at the door with a smile and we would go through the same ritual.
This past year, Tyler has begun contributing to meetings. It turns out he has some wonderful ideas. He is articulate, mature and thoughtful. So, when Tyler asked to speak to me I was curious about what he might have on his mind. I assumed he had a good idea to share or that he wanted me to write him a letter of reference as so many others have requested.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. When all the others had left, Tyler said that he wanted to thank me. He talked about how he had been too shy and unconfident to speak out in the first SIX years of his involvement in this group. He told me that he figured that I would never know it but that my welcoming him month after month and making him feel like he had an important part in the group was what gave him confidence to realize what he did have to offer and it gave him confidence to come out of his shell and try new things. He told me that being part of this group had given him courage to join an organization at which he reads to young ESL children, to join a leadership group at his school the year before, to join a group at his church and to volunteer at the local fire hall. It also gave him the space and courage he needed to be able to offer some amazing ideas to our group. He told me that he wanted me to know what an impact I'd had.
I was speechless. Of all the things I could have guessed he would say, this was not it. The truth of the matter is, all I did was to provide a welcoming space for Tyler. Not one thing more.
Tyler is a bold young man. He is bold in the most wonderful way. He has not only boldly stepped into some new roles, he has also boldly begun to use his powerful voice that will no doubt be well-used for many years to come helping and serving others with dignity and respect.
When I was a child, I feared being labelled as bold. Now I aspire to be so. I am grateful to Tyler and other people in my life who have given me new scripts about what it means to be bold.
When an old website no longer serves me, it is a good idea to update it in order that it can accurately reflect my new self. When an old definition no longer serves me, it is a gift to have a living example of what might be a better definition. Thank you, Tyler for inspiring me to be more bold.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘How can I live more boldly?’
Elizabeth is a Life and Leadership coach, working with motivated clients wishing to live boldly. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for corporate, public and private groups and provides leadership coaching for individuals and groups. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to begin to take bold steps.