A hero is simply a natural human being or a major fictional character who, against all odds, fights adversity through supreme acts of courage, ingenuity, or stamina. Like many previously only gender-specific words, the hero has been used to describe any gender, although hero only seems to apply to females. It also seems that the more popular usage of the word is when used to describe action heroes. For example, Superman is not just a hero, but a comic book hero.
In order to help you understand what makes a hero, consider some of the common defining characteristics. Many people define heroes as those who overcome great adversity, while others view heroes as those who exhibit “courageous” behavior. Still others believe heroes are those with heroic values, such as those who put themselves in dangerous situations to do something worthwhile. Still, some would have you believe that heroes are simply those who live a life of consistency and duty – whatever it takes.
All of these definitions miss the mark somewhat… Perhaps, the most useful tool for figuring out if a person fits the bill of a hero or just another ordinary person is to remember that heroes don’t do things just because they are heroes. Sure, some people may have a certain amount of bravery or “braveness” that makes them willing to take drastic action. However, this type of action comes rarely and usually not for any prolonged period of time. In many cases, heroic actions are necessary only during emergency situations. While some will say that there is nothing wrong with this, what I am saying is that true heroes don’t “just do things because they can”.
There is a distinction between acting on impulse or “being in the moment” that some feel is required for heroism. It is not that one must have a “feeling”, but rather that a hero thinks before taking action. It is my belief that those who subscribe to the “lay views” about heroism need to examine their own lives to realize just how much danger they regularly find themselves in. Too many laypersons think that heroes only act heroically when there is an immediate threat to their life – such as when a criminal is about to rob them.
What I am trying to say is that true heroes are always cautious and deliberate in how they choose to live their lives. They are careful in what they choose to do and they make every attempt to carefully plan every move they make to ensure that the worst possible outcome is avoided. Yes, they may sometimes put themselves and others in danger, but they will never lose sight of their primary objective – which is to act heroically. These men and women are truly heroic and by extension are greatly admired.
All the same, it is true that sometimes it is very hard to keep your cool and remain true to your moral values. This is especially true in times of war when your moral code gets in the way of your being able to protect yourself and others. It is here that the heroic imagination comes into play. Being one with the emotional response to the situation and employing all available techniques to remain unaffected by the impeding conflict is how all great heroes keep their composure. They demonstrate a rare ability to remain calm and objective despite the chaotic, confusing and potentially dangerous circumstances around them.