It’s no secret I write a lot about heroism. I’ve had some people suggest I write about it too much. Others suggest I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, and laugh at my supposed “naivety.” Some even seek to convince me there’s no such thing as a hero.
I take all these opinions under advisement, and I politely agree to disagree. There will always be those who doubt that we can rise above our baser urges, and see the world through cynical lenses. However, I refuse to let go of my conviction that heroism is an intrinsic part of what it means to be human.
Heroism isn’t a rare genetic trait possessed by a lucky few. It is part of our birthright as a self-aware species. All of us have the potential to exhibit the behavior we consider heroic: courage, selflessness, service to others. You may call it an expression of self-preservation or a sign of our divine nature. It doesn’t change the fact that heroism is real.
Heroism can be both an instinctual, unconscious act and a cultivatable, on-demand mindset. It can manifest spontaneously in dangerous situations, and can be summoned consciously to bolster one’s resolve during everyday activities. Yes, the magnitude of the inciting event can vary greatly—acting heroically in a war zone is far different from helping an elderly person cross a busy street. But the underlying drive to help others is the same.
Some have suggested I’m somehow diluting what it means to be a hero, by claiming it’s more common than generally accepted “wisdom” would suggest. While I heartily disagree with that notion, I will say one thing:
Do NOT call yourself a hero.
Have you ever noticed that the only people who call (or at least consider) themselves heroes are actually villains? For example, there was some debate as to whether Thanos could actually be the real hero of Infinity War. Although the big purple lunk thinks he’s doing everyone a favor, he fails the hero test because he decides what’s best for half the sentient beings in the universe. A hero would never take away someone’s free will, especially when it comes to that someone’s very existence.
So, I repeat: never call yourself a hero. That is for other people to decide. If others want to call you a hero for your actions, that’s up to them. As for you, just focus on taking action to uplift the world around you. Be bold in your service to others. Stand up for human life and dignity, in ways great or small. Let other people worry about the labels.
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