She warned us.

“I see sharks here all the time. They come into the shallow. If you see fish jumping, that’s a sure sign. Get out!”

Samantha and I looked at each other, eyes wide. Sharks? I mean, sure, it’s the ocean and there’s gazillions of wild sea critters – but right here? Right where we were standing?

We glanced into the murky water surrounding us. “And you can’t really see them,” she added, “because the water is so cloudy.”

Oh, perfect.

We stood just a few yards into the sea… do we go further? Do we risk being a shark snack? I licked the back of my hand. Nope, not tasty at all…. plus, I’m old and leathery. I glanced over at Sam’s youngness. Surely she was more appetizing.

I had thought it would be a good idea to rent a house in a neighborhood that had it’s own little stretch of beach this summer. Maybe not. There were no handsome lifeguards to whistle and warn us of impending shark doom. After the informative neighbor had gone back to her place, we were actually the only ones out there. Did we dare risk it?

We waded in. Sam had learned during “Shark Week” that if you cup your hands and pound the water like a whale tail, it will scare any potential sharks. We cupped. We smacked. We tried not to imagine the neighbors laughing as they watched out their windows.

Throughout the day, we had a ball. Our fears mellowed as the sun progressed through the sky. We simply enjoyed talking and laughing as the swells lifted and settled us onto the sandy bottom. 

At the end of the day, I couldn’t help but reflect on it. The fear. The fear that had nearly kept us from the joy. It immediately took me to a conversation I’d had with a dear friend. I’d posted a blog and he was concerned that I’d get flack about it. And I had gotten flack on another piece that simply celebrated the heroes in our world and pushed back a bit on the opinions of others. 

It’s scary out there. Lots of sharks. It’s scary to write, speak, post, think anything these days. Share an opinion, pose a thought, offer a loving critique or even an encouragement – and STRIKE. The sharks attack through the murky water, offering anonymous cruelty and demeaning comments.

So we shrink back. We don’t step into the water. Who wants to get chomped to bits for sharing a heartfelt opinion?

But at what cost are we silenced? We lose the beauty of growing from each other. We get utterly tame in our endless pics  and posts about cute kids and happy quotes and non-offensive cuddly pets. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m as big a fan as the next gal of cute kids and pups, but I also love hearing about what moves you, what makes you passionate, what makes you feel vulnerable and uncertain.

Now, I’m not a big pot-stirrer. And I’m not talking about shaming or posting political jabs that are divisive and not at all helpful. But I do think we need to grow in our confidence and willingness to share our hearts and opinions in loving ways. To heck with the sharks – how about just jumping in the water and playing a little? Enjoying the conversation, the swells of unique thoughts and the comfort of solid friendships that should be able to endure a little sand between the toes?

Let’s give each other grace to be real and then be real ourselves – because honestly, the world needs us to be a little less tame, and a little more bold – in all the best ways.

And we’ll all be the better for it.

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