We’ve all had heroes as kids. We’ve all felt that complete euphoria when our heroes actually talked to us. Oh, my lord, what an event that was! In that split second, you were on their level; you felt like a god had reached down from the heavens and given you wings. It lasted for days. I miss those childhood days when I knew somebody I wanted to be exactly like. I miss that sense of awe for someone, of being in the presence of someone great. I miss that hint of power and the unspoken promise that now everything was going to be okay.
It’s been a long time since I’ve felt those feelings for somebody. I wondered if maybe I had just forgotten what being a hero was all about. I did think of Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama, but I need a more practical definition of hero – I could never be saintly. But two or three steps down would be good.
I looked up hero in an online dictionary. It described a hero as a figure “of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability;” “a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities;” one that (shouldn’t that be “who”?) shows great courage. There were three other definitions, including “an object of extreme admiration and devotion: idol.”
Then I looked up heroine. We women didn’t fare as well. First of all, we were defined by the male definition: a “woman having the qualities of a hero.” There was no separate mention of admiration, nobility or courage. There was also no mention of devotion, or idol status. Probably to save space on the page, but I wonder about the little girl who looks up the word “heroine” and sees that you have to go to the male version first. Course, we weren’t defined as a baloney sandwich, so I guess we women and little girls can feel good about that.
I didn’t look up the definitions to identify gender discrimination, though. I had hoped to be inspired with a name when I read them, but I felt zippo. The definitions of hero and heroine appear critically outdated. We need a definition that is gender free and can be applied to anyone, male or female, child or adult. I came up with some examples of what I could aspire to be like.
1) One who displays great respect and reverence for life; is admired for his/her ability to make decisions based on this value. Ex: strong, generous, ego less leaders or business owners; legislators who stand up against discrimination and self-gain, and vote for diversity, individual freedoms, privacy, a healthy earth, and global relationships that are based on mutual cooperation and respect.
2) One who exhibits the strength and courage of individuality and the allowing of those who are different. Ex.: men who ignore the macho myth; men who are good fathers; women who do not criticize themselves or other women; women who are good mothers; children who are happy to be children.
3) One who continually demonstrates consistency of character, dependability, and trustworthiness, who accepts worth not as defined by others, but by those acts that consistently reflect such traits. Ex.: kind and thoughtful family members; generous and grateful community members.
4) The word for hero should be genderless.
Being a hero is rather simple, when you stop to think about it. It simply requires the intended action of doing the right thing for the right reason, with respect and grace.
The irony is, we accept the high position of authority in business or government — areas ripe for heroism — as a place that cannot do the right thing for the right reason, as it wouldn’t be profitable. We allow a substandard kinda guy or gal – the one with the biggest ego or the largest personal agenda — to determine our national policies. As a society, we seem to accept this unquestioningly, as if we were brainwashed into thinking no other way is possible, and so we shouldn’t expect anything different.
We need to return to the expectations of our childhoods…when heroes accomplished great deeds and great joy was unleashed upon the people. We need to expect — and require — that the people who represent us, do so in the right way, for the right reasons, for the highest and common good of all.
It’s time for our children to have heroes like we did.
I kinda want one again, too.
— ( c ) St. John 2006