Updated: Jul 16, 2019
We love heroes.
Perhaps, we first discover them as superheroes in comic books and movies. Putting their lives in peril, they turn back evil, protect the innocent and vulnerable, and save the planet from destruction. Heroism is an idea as old as humankind itself. Stories of legendary figures were passed down through oral traditions and is a central theme in classic literature.
There are those who take heroic action by voicing innovative ideas or a dissenting view, defending a noble cause, or confronting societal injustice. History is full of courageous men and women who were catalysts for dramatic social change and paid the ultimate price for their attempts to reform society.
The notion of heroism is far more immediate and relevant to our daily lives than we might imagine. You do not have to become a front-page activist, launch a social revolution, be messianic, quit your job or join the Justice League to carry out a heroic action. Heroism is acting on behalf of a person in need or a cause you believe in, without personal gain and aware of likely sacrifices and costs. It might be a spontaneous deed or a planned course of action.
A person of any age can act heroically. You can cultivate the habit of standing up, speaking out and taking decisive action in challenging situations in your life. Not all heroes wear capes and leap buildings, they are ordinary people who take personal risks to help someone in need, act according to their convictions, undertake a humanitarian effort or intervene in a time of tragedy or crisis. Being a hero could involve volunteering your help in times of tragedy or disaster or being fully and compassionately present to another human being in the face of suffering.
These days, the concept of a hero has been equated with star athletes, celebrities, and individuals of great wealth or influence. We give too little thought to considering how we might engage in bravery in our social sphere, the place where most of us will have an opportunity to be heroic at one time or another.
The essence of heroism lies on our solidarity with all human beings and living things. We are moved to alleviate suffering, bring social change, seek justice, and ensure the wellbeing, dignity, and rights of others. When we are moved to action by a need, cause, injustice, or crisis, we are tapping into one of the highest callings we feel as human beings.
There is a hero in all of us. What are the reasons or situations that you could imagine yourself taking heroic action? Heroes are not made by special powers they possess, but by the paths they choose – to get involved, intervene, and act. Heroism is risky. An act of bravery can involve challenging the status quo and fearlessly standing for a new possibility that does not yet exist. Sometimes heroes remain alone and face opposition. No one ever said courageous acts are easy.
Comic book writer, Grant Morrison, wrote,
“We love our superheroes because they refuse to give up on us. We can analyze them out of existence, kill them, ban them, mock them, and still they return, patiently reminding us of who we are and what we wish we could be.”
There is a part of each of us that wants to be a hero. We do not need to be faster than a speeding bullet, or more powerful than a locomotive. But it will require you to be courageously, unflinchingly, lionheartedly human. Be that, and you are a hero.
© Jim Palmer, 2019. All Rights Reserved.