Do heroes in the real world actually exist? Ask children who their hero is and Superman or Spiderman might be frequent answers. Also in cinemas, there’s no shortage of superhero movies. So, does being a hero require you to have some sort of superpower? Many of the same children would disagree for whom their mothers are like heroes.
Switch to grownups and many believe the helpers at 9/11 were heroes. In Europe, last weekend many people called an austrian transsexual, Conchita Wurst, their hero. Millions of people around the globe consider football star Cristiano Ronaldo their hero. A friend of mine told me his teacher was his hero because he motivated his whole school for the cause of UNICEF.
Hero descriptions range from friends to strangers and from unknown to famous people. So what is a hero? What do these people have in common?
To find an answer, we asked fellow bloggers what a hero is to them and this is what they replied.
Kerstin Hoffmann reminds us that the word “hero” often has a quite pathetic connotation. But she leads our looks to an organization which calls itself “Sozialhelden” (“social heroes“ in English):
Somehow, to me “hero” sounds pathetic, almost martial. This is why I probably wouldn’t use the word without at least a bit of an ironic connotation. On the other hand, there are organizations like “Sozialhelden”, founded by the courageous and brilliant Raul Krauthausen, who really deserve their self-chosen name. I encourage everyone to consider supporting their work.*
“Sozialhelden” is an organization that wants to raise awareness for disabled people and e.g. runs a platform called wheelmap.org where wheelchair users can find wheelchair friendly places. It encourages people to do good and have fun doing it, in their words: “to become a social hero”.
Indeed, “do good” is a property that many of the above mentioned heroes share. Superman? Always there to help. Mums? Want the best for their children. 9/11 helpers? Of course. But there seems to be more to heroes.
Johanne Kläger, a life coach who herself has given her own life a u-turn in recent times, adds that being a hero might sometimes require will power:
To me, a hero is someone who has the courage to persevere even if things get uncomfortable and who has the courage to withstand criticism. Someone who is there for others without losing sight of what he believes in. Really, this is the difficult part.*
Like for that UNICEF teacher of my friend who had to fight resistance from his teacher colleagues and several parents. But he persevered because he believed in his cause. It seems that oftentimes, heroes have a strong belief and that they are willing to stand in for these beliefs.
Tim Bruysten, a professor for Game Design, even considers this a defining property of heroes:
Heroes have a clear message which stands the test of time and opinions. As a consequence, a hero is a factor of discontinuity in his time. In our times, this may even mean that the acceleration (of times) is further accelerated.*
Let’s combine these statements and we get a clearer picture of what heroes actually are: To be a hero has nothing to do with superpowers. Heroes have an opinion about what’s “good”, not necessarily for them but for those who are “important” for them. They act accordingly, even against resistance and are willing to persevere when it’s hard. Heroes are “ordinary” people.
That’s what we need to re-discover. Superheroes like Spiderman or James Bond are fascinating to many people. And stories about them might make for a good blockbuster movie. But on a personal level, like in everyday conversations or in presentations, we are equally fascinated by stories about real humans. Those are the people we draw inspiration from, because it’s more tangible, it’s in reach.
How about you? Who is your hero? What makes him a hero?
[*Statements have been translated from German.]