What is at the heart of a hero?
As a race, we strive to define who and what we are everyday of our lives. We recognize our accomplishments in many different ways– financially, spiritually, morally. When times are tough, we seek inspiration from ideologies and values that we define as acceptable or create it when it is absent. Whether we are conscious of this or not, it has become our lexicon of humanity. The idea that heroes exist. As writers, we strive to define the perfect hero.
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary (2012) defines a hero, as an individual to be admired; a mythological/legendary character or warrior with extraordinary power and strength with noble achievements.
We can look around and see various types of heroes in our everyday lives. I’m sure you can think of a few now.
What makes someone a hero?
As I write, I try to define my hero or heroine. What will he or she look like? How will they react? Where do they come from? What are their goals and motivations? These can vary greatly and most often will not be that pretty little package that we uphold heroes to be. As we know, heroes can be born or they can rise to the occasion when you least expect it and from the most unlikely source. Although we try to draw a picture of what a hero looks like, I think it is very difficult to define it by physical features, gender, or profession for that matter.
No, I think it’s much deeper than that.
I draw from my own experience in an attempt to capture this allusive core of a true hero. What makes an individual risk their life to save others? To sacrifice without a thought of their own safety. So I went on a little search to find shining examples of heroes and how they defined themselves.
Fire Department: SERVICE — BRAVERY — SAFETY — HONOR — DEDICATION — PREPAREDNESS
The Department of the Navy (Sailors & Marines): HONOR — COURAGE — COMMITMENT
Police Department: HONOR — SERVICE — INTEGRITY — RESPECT — TRUST — COURAGE — DUTY
Notice these values don’t mention height, weight or physical characteristics. These values are taught and enveloped into ones moral center and core. A belief and an ideal waiting to be acted upon, discovered or lived by. Yes, handsome and pretty superheroes are more popular than ever (Superman, Spiderman, The Avengers–my favorite THOR), but if you strip away the suit and the great hair you will find the same values mentioned above somewhere beneath that impenetrable and sometimes obnoxious shell—
The heart of a hero.
I think if we look past the more usual sources of heroes, you will find others that carry these values and express their hero inside to varying degrees. In my research to define a heroes’ traits, I came across this website: My Hero: Celebrate the Best of Humanity . It highlights everyday heroes at work in the world trying to make a difference in people’s’ lives.
We, as a society, celebrate the ideals and characteristics of heroes through role-playing in movies (make-believe) and by recognizing those who have sacrificed through medals of valor and words of thanks (real). I can guarantee you one thing– If you ask the person being recognized, if they are a hero they will deny it. Humility seems to be at their core, as well.
So, do perfect heroes really exist? If so, why?