What Does It Mean to Be a Hero?
A hero, or a heroine, which is the feminine form of the noun, is an individual who enjoys excessive admiration for his or her qualities, skills, personality features or actions. Heroes are renowned for their courage, selflessness, dignity, physical or moral strength or excellence. People look up to their heroes, and their deeds inspire them to try to something meaningful themselves or to become better human beings.
A heroic deed is a concept that one can view on multiple levels. Some deeds are universally regarded as heroic since they entail saving people's lives or property, or generally doing something audacious for the sake of helping others, with no regard for personal safety. When you think about a typical image of a hero you can picture a firefighter rushing into a burning building and saving an elderly lady trapped behind a wooden beam that had broken off in the fire and prevented her from getting out. Soldiers fighting to liberate innocent civilians from armed rebels are another example of persons we might all consider to be heroes. Other heroic deeds are more culturally defined and dependent on the circumstances under which they occur. A hero embodies the ideals and virtues of the culture that created him. Good and evil are notions defined by the value system of a particular society or even a subculture. Someone is only considered to be a hero if they uphold the values of ea particular culture to which they belong. And even within a culture, it is possible for the same person to be someone's hero and other people`s villain. Robin Hood, for example, stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Most people consider him a hero although stealing is hardly a heroic deed in itself. It is the intent that makes the deed heroic. If Robin Hood's motivation was greed and he was stealing steal for the sake of amassing wealth and fortune, he would most certainly get recognized as a common criminal.
People in different stages of their lives have diverse views of what they consider heroic. Children admire fictional movie or video-game heroes; they believe in supernatural powers and strengths, and their identification with these characters is a normal developmental phase towards reaching maturity. Kids often feel helpless and weak in the face of various obstacles they face in life, and are in need of someone strong and sturdy, real or fictional, to make them feel safe and protected. Adults, on the contrary, are usually more realistic in regarding someone`s deeds as heroic or considering a person to be a hero. A hero can be someone who contributes significantly to the community, like police officers, firefighters, doctors, etc., but not necessarily. An individual can accomplish a tremendous personal achievement, such as climb Mt. Everest, which has no bearing on the community as a whole, but people still consider them to be heroic. How can this be explained? Well, if you want to be heroic or someone people admire and look up to, you are not obligated to do something which would directly benefit others. You can just as well become a role model by doing something remarkable for yourself and inspiring others to do something great for themselves. They do not need to follow in your footsteps and climb a mountain themselves if that is not something they aspire to do. They can reach a personal goal by looking up to you for inspiration and saying to themselves "If this man can climb Mt. Everest, surely I can pass this exam, no matter how difficult it is”. Similar to climbing a mountain, everyday achievements also require a lot of effort and practice.
Some people do heroic deeds by trade, as in the example of high-risk professions like law enforcement or the army, others become heroes by chance. They accidentally find themselves in circumstances which induce them to do an act of heroism. An ordinary person walking down a street sees a young woman surrounded by a group of suspiciously looking characters who insult and intimidate her. The person starts shouting or threatens to call the police, and at the risk of being hurt himself, manages to scare the group off and to rescue the young woman. Of course, he or she could have ended up dead or injured, but the willingness to give up the personal safety for the sake of helping someone else is what makes him or her a hero.
Of course, not every heroic deed needs to be as dangerous or as big as those previously described. Everyday heroes can be found all around us. Most of our parents can be considered heroes for disregarding their own wishes for the sake of fulfilling those of their children. People putting their careers on hold in favor of taking care of their elderly parents are just as heroic. There are countless acts of heroism we never hear about because their protagonists just do not wish to get the attention or be publicly exposed. It does not make their deeds any less heroic, quite the contrary.