A hero is usually a fictional character or an actual person who, in the face of adversity, performs daring feats of strength, courage, or ingenuity. Like many previously only gender-specific words, hero has now become an all-inclusive term. A hero is generally shown as the strong person in dire circumstances, but also as the patient, kind person, who sees the good in even the worst situations. This kind of hero inspires and motivates others, drawing them to him in times of need. But more than just a kind or sensitive person, a hero needs to have courage in his soul and a firm knowledge of right from wrong.


Defining characteristics of heroes are not only found in traditional stories about them. In modern movies, books, and comics as well, a plethora of characters – every version of each – are given heroic qualities. The distinguishing characteristics of heroes, then, reflect the societal roles they fill. While traditionally heroic figures are powerful and independent, today, heroes are depicted as caring, sensitive, humble, courageous, and witty.

Defining characteristics of heroes may also come from the traditional role of a hero in society. Because they act as the sentinals, telling the people what to do and when to do it, traditional heroes may represent the social ideals of bravery, impartiality, and truthfulness. Heroes may also embody qualities such as purity, bravery, and chivalry, all of which are valued in their societies. Often, societies require children to assume the role of a hero, inspiring them with hope, helping them realize their potential for greatness.

A hero, then, is someone who acts heroically. He acts in a situation based on his understanding of how things should be and what he thinks is best. A hero’s decisions, however heroic they may seem, always have a cost. A hero will work hard or face serious personal danger to protect others and himself.

Defining heroism means taking a stand. We know there’s a difference between action and real life. But sometimes, real life gets in the way of our capacity to act heroically. So, how does one decide whether or not they are a hero? According to surveys, a hero will consider risk, stand up for justice, and put their personal safety above everything else. A hero will have a certain percentage of “heroism” in them, but probably closer to ninety percent than that.

When kids think of heroes, they typically think of them as adults. Adults, too, have a certain amount of “heroism” in them. So, just as adults can have different definitions of what it means to be a hero, children might have different ideas about what it means to be a hero. While the majority of kids will likely recognize at least some of the most common defining characteristics of heroes, they might not have all of the experiences and personalities associated with all of those qualities.

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