The Heroes We Want To Be

What if I told you I had cancer? Would I suddenly appear bolder and braver than those without it? Or perhaps I lost a loved one, or suffered a traumatic event? Would that suddenly make me easier to understand or relate to? Why is it that we find ourselves compassionate only to those whose troubles we know, but assume that all others are privileged and therefore not in need of our consideration unless earned? It’s exactly this morbidity that drives the mentality of hero worship. We only perceive others as heroes if they have triumphed over a struggle that weighs us down, or achieved a goal against odds similar to our own.

I can’t recall who said it, but they said it well when they suggested that:

Each time we create a hero we diminish our own capacity for greatness.

When we create heroes we create limits. The naïve optimist may see it as setting an aspirational goal, but the realist knows that it sets a limit to what we wish to achieve. It therefore defies logic and reason that one would go through life with the goal of being someone’s hero. There are two critical shortcomings in such an objective. With the first having been explained above, the second is more troubling though because it suggests that the one seeking such a status is shaping their life around the expectations of another.

I vehemently oppose the belief that we should live our lives with the intention of fulfilling another’s expectations of us. The one that appears to be heroic in such an endeavour is in fact a martyr. Not all martyrs are worthy of celebration. Those that act impulsively out of conviction rather than a consideration for the consequential fame and admiration they may earn are of honourable, maybe even of noble intent. Those that act while consciously aware of the potential fame and good fortune that may follow are attention-seekers and should be spurned. They are the ones that will behave unethically and will lose their moral compass the moment their intended audience is not around to witness their foul ways.

We are driven more by our ego than we are by sincerity of intent. Those that deny this fact are in fact in denial. So when we set out to be the hero of those around us, be they our significant others, or people whose respect and admiration we court, we must not fool ourselves into believing that such an endeavour is a noble one. Although the benefits may be so, the intent is very firmly grounded in our need for significance, or our need to allay the guilt of those actions that undermine the integrity of the relationship we proclaimed to have had with the one we now wish to serve. Simply stated, when we feel a need to compensate for past failures or betrayals, we willingly sacrifice our rights and liberties in order to repay our debts for previously abusing the rights of others. And to the casual observer, we may appear heroic in the process.

I think every one of us harbours a desire to be celebrated. The greater the self-loathing, the greater the need for that affirmation and validation. Those that court such attention are often the most troubled. Those that don’t, seek fulfilment of a more substantial kind. But that is the musings of another post altogether. All this keeps nagging at me with one final realisation that many don’t grasp. The difference between rights and expectations. Some will read this and find reason to abdicate their responsibility towards others under the false notion that they refuse to live according to the expectations of others, when in fact the truth is closer to them searching for any reason to abdicate responsibility. Period.

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