What Does it Mean to Be a Hero?

When you were a child, were you inspired by stories of knights, supermen and courageous men and women who did wonderful things and changed the world around them? They were your heroes. You looked up to them, didn’t you? And you admired them and read stories about them late into the night? Weren’t you inspired by their courage and hoped you could grow up brave and strong? Weren’t you thrilled by their exploits and their charisma?

What about now? Who are your heroes? Are they baseball champions or Olympic swimmers? Or are they perhaps explorers and adventurers, crossing the North Pole single-handed or rowing the Pacific in a two-man boat?

What does it mean to be a hero? Is it someone fulfilling an ambition at great personal and physical struggle or is it someone doing something for the good of mankind? And why do we all need heroes – what is it that inspires us about certain people and makes us hold them up as examples of greatness?

The truth is that we look up to people who make a difference to our lives while at the same time overcoming personal struggle and hardship to achieve that goal. We admire their bravery and dedication; we aspire to be as courageous and focused as they are to achieve what they set out to do.

So being a hero isn’t necessarily about achievement only. It’s the effect that their achievement has on the rest of us and what we can learn from the struggle and hardship they underwent. They are what we could call exemplars – they are people who demonstrate high standards of character and dedication and who inspire us to achieve the highest that we can in order to emulate them.

However, being a hero isn’t always front page news or the stuff of films. Being a hero can mean working all the hours under the sun and earning enough to send your children to college so that they can have a better future than you had at their age. It can be as simple as making sure that the elderly people in your area are always warm and well fed, or dedicating yourself to improving community amenities and overcoming all the obstacles that get thrown up in your path.

So you can achieve great things like win an Olympic gold medal by being fast on your feet and become an icon. Or you can achieve great things through strength of character and perseverance, and become a hero. You can doubt your ability to complete the journey, but having the strength of character and purpose to overcome your own fears about completing it – that’s the stuff of heroes.

That’s what inspires others – that you falter and doubt your ability to carry on, but that you then pick yourself up again stronger than before, doubly committed to your goal, and you press on to the end.