The True Measure of Heroism
A Message of Hope by Sebastian Diaz
What is a hero? What is the true measure of heroism? Which qualities must an individual possess to be considered a hero or heroine?
Ever since we stepped into this planet, we humans have tried to answer these questions. Our search to define the meaning of the word “hero” is present in pretty much every single piece of media and entertainment in our history: from Greek mythology to Arthurian lore, comic book superheroes, and a lot of real historical figures. Movies, TV, music…every single medium has tried to answer this question. Are any of these approaches close to defining the true measure of heroism?
There are many different interpretations and approaches to try to explain what constitutes a hero. Sigmund Freud gave an analysis of the typical literature hero. His definition of a hero is “an individual who elicits in a reader a feeling of security that makes the reader follow him through his adventures”. Characters such as Huckleberry Finn and Holden Caulfield have gained the sympathy of the readers for representing characteristics such as strength, bravery, intelligence, and humility, allowing them to become heroes.
But way before these heroes, there were mythological and folklore heroes. Think of Achilles, Beowulf, and Davy Crockett. These characters are considered heroes because of their heroic prowess and their sense of adventur and courage. Of course, they were not without flaws or making mistakes, but mistakes are as important a part of human nature as breathing is.
Now, let’s turn our attention to contemporary media, such as television and cinema. Think of comic book heroes such as Superman and the Flash. They are heroes because they have flashy capes and costumes, fly towards the sundown shouting their catchphrases, stopping villains, and keeping their cities safe. Now think of movie heroes, such as Luke Skywalker. These characters start out as ordinary people who become heroes after achieving extraordinary feats.
But there are also real heroes in our history. While comic books have Batman and the Incredible Hulk, we have Joan of Arc and Martin Luther King, people whose life and work have earned them the “hero” status, and we honor said accomplishments by building statues and monuments of these people, and naming streets, buildings, airports, even entire cities after them.
Turns out, while all the examples above represent heroes, the existing media and approaches have made us think that being a hero has to include superpowers or statues of yourself, and that without those things you’re just ordinary and not extraordinary. But that isn’t true. To be a hero, you don’t have to be bitten by a radioactive spider or change the course of rivers. You don’t have to blow up the Death Star or win a Nobel Prize, or have a street or building named after you. The definition of a hero is much more simple than that.
Theodore Roosevelt was one of the greatest heroes in history, and is one of my personal role models. Among his multiple quotes, there’s one I found which I think perfectly summarizes the true measure of heroism: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”.
That’s a hero. A hero does what he can, with what he has, where he is. As mentioned before, heroes all have flaws, but that’s just a part of life. Being a hero isn’t about not making mistakes, but about knowing to recognize them, look beyond them, and learn from them. A good hero knows when to forgive, when to admit he’s wrong, when to accept defeat and when to keep fighting, when to sacrifice his happiness for that of others.
A hero gives his part to make the world a better place. He knows when to accept the heavy burden without complaining to make things easier for everyone. He chooses the right path, not the easy one. He unites, motivates, and inspires others, giving a positive example and enabling people to look up to him as a leader or role model. He always wishes good and tries to be the best version of himself he can be. Love life, love other people, and love yourself. That’s all it takes to be a true hero.
Take a look around you, take a look inside yourself. You’ll realize there’s a hero inside all of us. We are all heroes in our own right. And there are times when our heroic qualities come out to light more than anytime else. This is one of those times.
We are going through a difficult crisis. A crisis which has shaken our beliefs and our cores, and has tested our status as a species. I don’t know when all of this will end, or what kind of changes this will all bring. And yet, here we are, ordinary heroes without capes or cool vehicles, standing strong, heads held high, ready to embrace whatever is coming.
Show to the world the hero you are.
“Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not the powers they are graced with”.
Brodi Ashton, Everneath
“There goes my hero Watch him as he goes There goes my hero He's ordinary”
“My Hero”, Foo Fighters
“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road is darkened”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
“Heroes don’t have to be known as heroes. They just do what heroes do because it is right and must be done”.
Shannon A. Thompson
“A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he’s brave five minutes longer”.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an opportunist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”.
“I may not live to see our glory, but I will gladly join the fight. And when our children tell our story, they’ll tell the story of tonight”.
“The Story of Tonight”, Hamilton
“Do not wait for leaders. Do it alone, person for person”
“We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up…discovering we have the strength to step it down”.
“If you want to be a bird, fly. If you want to be a worm, crawl. But don’t shout when you get stomped”.