My first recollection of a superhero was Captain Planet. Like any other boy, my ideas of manhood were formed in part by the valiant heroes I grew up watching: Spiderman. Superman. Batman. They represented everything I wanted to be, everything I believed I could be over the passage of puberty and into adulthood.
One day I’d grow up to be one of them. I’d save the day and get the girl.
Most of us grew up like that. Holding ourselves, subconsciously, to a standard of being a hero in our life movie. As it always does, life has its own ideas and designs on the path our journey should take. We find ourselves facing the stark reality that we’ve fallen short of the image of ourselves we had. Our business didn’t work out. Our marriage failed. Our health gave in sooner than expected. Our expectations of ourselves, and what we thought we would build, were crushed.
What does a man do when he realizes he falls short and most likely always will?
There are two paths we find ourselves faced with:
We can choose bitterness or humility. Choosing bitterness says that we were wronged by life and we would rather bear the grudge of injury than to use it to forge us into being a better man. Humility looks back on the experience and extracts as much learning and development opportunities, no matter how personally painful they may be.
We can place blame or take responsibility. Choosing blame exonerates us from any part we contributed to the tragedies that befell us on the way to carving out our dreams, which is not always true or realistic. Responsibility owns up to our weaknesses and identifies trigger points that we should be aware of lest we fall into the same trap again.
We can remain rigid in our ways or allow ourselves to be forged and shaped by our challenges and weaknesses. Choosing stubbornness means refusing to be malleable to life’s richest learning experiences and change our erroneous ways of thinking or doing things.
Perhaps making the more difficult choices of humility, responsibility, and malleability when our egos have been bruised are, in the end, the true marks of a superhero after all.
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