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What makes a Hero? Superman, Iron Man, The Flash, Captain America, Wonder Woman, Spiderman, all of these figures have been lauded as the ideal of a true hero for the better part of a century, but have we ever really stopped to think about what antiquates, depicts or defines a hero. There are certain qualities of a hero which transgress time: a hero has skills or talents greater than the normal person, overcomes the odds, and has qualities which raise the hopes of the common man. However, a hero also reflect societal norms, culture and technology. A hero in Greek times did not have, for example, the same superpowers of Superman because of the lack of technology. Superman had to fly because Twentieth Century man had airplanes. Other heroes are willing to be self-sacrificing because of the Western, Judeo-Christian concept of martyrdom. The nature of the abilities and functions of a hero, therefore, change as to nature and extent but do not change as to the underlying concepts. The concept of a hero reflects the norms for any society and the sociological make-up of a culture. The idea of what a hero is changes from person to person, culture to society, and even year to year. So what makes a hero is the primary topic of my essay.
Heroes are symbols more than actual real people. Like the Greeks did with Achilles, Jason, Perseus, or Odysseus, we tote them around to show the world “Hey this is what we admire!” We often do it with little realization in the matter, we pick them based on the collective ideals of our society and upbringing. We recognize people for being good at what ever it is they do and elevate them to a higher status than us for it. But once someone is lifted to that higher status they become a kind of focal point for lots of society making them the objects of constant gossip, and in so doing making them become a kind of mythical figure.
Heroes have qualities that go above and beyond what the normal man can do. In Ancient Greece this was necessary because their heroes were “demi-gods” and would earn their glory and honor or “kleos” in battle or by performing challenging feats and going on quests. Achilles was “god-like”, in his abilities to fight. He was the best warrior of the Achaeans, half-god half-mortal, yet invincible (other than his Achilles heel). Achilles is the epitome of the traditional Greek mythical hero. Greek heroes still influence our heroes today, such as Achilles does to Superman. But our heroes have adapted to our culture over time as we changed and the world around us changed. When technology changed the world, so did our ideas of heroics. If a man can fly way up in the sky in a piece of metal, then a hero would then need to be able to transverse the globe by flying around to save people. If a man can kill someone with a gun that averages a speed of 2,500 ft per second, then heroes would need to be able to go even faster.Technology changed, and still is changing, what it means to be human, and therefore what it means to be a hero.
Every hero has something they need to overcome before they really become heroic, for the Greek classical hero it was always the hero’s greatest weakness, which often varied from hero to hero. Sometimes it was pride, or maybe even their own mortality as a half human. Part of overcoming the odds is overcoming these weaknesses, for Achilles this is his own mortality, for Superman it is Kryptonite, the only thing that can actually make him human. Both of these heroes saut to eradicate these weaknesses to no avail. Achilles’ mother dipping him in the Styx in an attempt to make him invincible, and Superman trying to locate and destroy all of the world’s kryptonite so it couldn’t be used against him, both of them failing, teaching us no one can be without humanity and some sort of weakness, even the greatest of heroes. Achilles dies due to a poison arrow to the heel and Superman dies because of kryptonite wielded by Lex Luthor. Today’s heroes still have something they must overcome, this is where the popular culture of underdogs comes from. We want to see those we would never expect to be heroes overcome the odds and win, it doesn’t matter to us that much what it is the underdog is overcoming in our culture we have this innate need to cheer on those who are less privileged.
A hero is seen as someone willing to sacrifice something, maybe even their life to save another. They are selfless and put the greater good above their own life, this is where our culture of a semi Judeo-Christian society and modern concept of heroism and compassion as a heroic trait come into play were they didn’t play as big of a role in traditional Greek Myth. Heroes have a sense of compassion, this is one of the qualities that most people think of when asked about heroes. They put others first, this is why we praise our civil servants, and our soldiers, because they put us first and put themselves therefore in the “line of fire”. By putting someone else’s needs before your own with a conscious effort. This trait is sometimes shown in Classical heroics but is not a very popular one, it pops up in some stories, like that of Perseus and his rescue of the beautiful Andromeda, or in Dionysus finding a broken-hearted Areadne alone and crying and making her his immortal wife in Olympus. These ideas and traits of compassion lead a person to become something more in the eyes of people today by stepping up, putting the needs of others before their own, and that makes us admire them. They are selflessly doing something for the greater “good” possibility at great cost to them or their own life.
Courage is something no hero could ever live without. The courage to do something that possibly no one else has ever done. The courage to fight back against the system. The courage to do something greater. Courage was and is important for any hero, as it is the thing that forces them to face that which they are afraid of. A hero cannot be a hero without the courage to do something that scares them, they have to show bravery. All acts of heroism require some form or another of bravery. The courage exemplified by a soldier was the common idea of Greek courage and bravery. The same values that Homer espoused to which were central to the Greek way of life. Not everything every hero does that is brave is heroic, but we elevate them in status because they exemplify all that we wish we could. Like Achilles and Odysseus did for the Greeks, so our heroes do for us today.
Any hero, Greek or modern, has wisdom, whether they were born with it in them, or it came from a flood of past mistakes and failures. They know what it is to do the right thing. They learn from the wisdom of those around them just as any of us do. Learning from other’s successes and failures as well as your own is often necessary to remain strong whenever the world decides to throw you for a loop. Wisdom gives people the capability to make sensible decisions based upon their own understanding. Wisdom is what made heroes know and understand the differences between right and wrong, one of the many reasons that we look to them when the world is failing is because they know and understand these differences. They guide us in the right direction when all seems darkest. Every society has troubles war, famine, disease, or drought. Heroes are constant reminders that good people do exist in the world, that despite all of the suffering all around us we always will have someone that we can count on to do the right thing.
Heroes come around when they are needed, they save us when we are in trouble, they give hope when all seems lost. They gives us the hope for a better tomorrow. Picking up the mantle of those fallen, charging forward to make the world a better place. Fighting now so they don’t have to fight again, and other battles can be won in the future to keep bettering the world. They keep going and moving forward to keep safe the lives of those most precious to them, and save and protect those who most need it. Like the image of the shield of Achilles, heroes fight and continue on to be a safeguard for hope, for vision of a brighter tomorrow. Heroes give us hope for our own lives when things seem darkest. Achilles goes to battle when the Trojans were decimating the Greek forces. He gives the Greek warriors back their hope, gives them a reason to fight, and to win the war. Now our modern heroes also inspire us and give us hope to get back up and try again, even when we are at our worst.
Heroes have certain qualities which transcend time. The modern and classical examples of heroism share mythology as a backing influence. Heroes need to be able to go above and beyond the normal and achieve things that the average person only dreams about. Heroes rise out of situations of bad luck, or disaster to do outstanding things. They are human, but achieve greater than human ideas and feats, showing us things we try to emulate, but qualities we are often missing. Heroes must beat the odds, and overcome whatever it is holding them back. Whether it is attempting to conquer their own greatest weaknesses, or to push back against outside forces that are trying to tell them they can’t do it. There are so many things that can make people heroes, for one of any of a million reasons.
Is a hero someone who is strong and fights bad guys? Or is it someone who partakes in ordinary acts of kindness? Everybody has a different perspective on what makes someone a hero. Some of the commonly accepted fundamental values that a hero exhibits are bravery, courage, selflessness, sacrifice and humility. One person who demonstrates all these values is Jesus Christ. No one can deny that throughout Jesus’ life he overcame many obstacles and displayed the values aforementioned. Jesus was brave and courageous when he stood up for what he believed in, he was selfless and showed sacrifice by giving his life for ours and lastly, he showed humility every day when he was preaching the Good News. So on the example of Jesus Christ figure we will focus on what makes a hero in this essay.
There has been a myriad of films made about heroes that are brave by fighting the evil characters; however, one does not need to win battles to show courage. Jesus showed his bravery repeatedly by preaching the Good News even though what his preaching was against the Roman’s rule. He broke the law by healing a blind man on the Sabbath day. Blind people were said to be cursed because they had sinned; people who associated with them were considered to be outcasts. Jesus did not let this social belief affect his teaching and one day as he was walking with his disciples, he decided to heal a man born blind. He said:
“Neither this man or his parents have sinned…but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him…After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam”. So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.” (John 9: 3-7)
By healing this man Jesus showed bravery. Jesus did not cower when he performed miracles he knew he would be punished for. He did not let the laws stop him from doing God’s work. It was his miracles that he performed that later led to his death and yet he never backed down to save himself. Jesus was a brave and courageous Son of God who stood up for his beliefs by never cowering in the face of fear.
John 15:13 states, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus performed the ultimate sacrifice by giving his life, opening the gateway to heaven, so that we may receive eternal life. Through his actions, he has exhibited selflessness- one of the most valued qualities a hero can display. Many heroes are brave and courageous but do not value the quintessential trait of being selfless. A true hero fights for the good of others and is selfless enough to give up themselves to save those around them. Jesus was the saviour of mankind; he sacrificed himself for the greater good. Jesus never displayed an egotistic quality throughout his entire life. He always served for the greater good and was never self-centred. This is what makes Jesus a true hero- he sacrificed his life for ours and served others throughout his entire life.
When we describe heroes, we do not describe them as being boastful and conceited. We describe them as being humble and self-effacing. Jesus was an extremely humble person who always taught that everyone is equal in the eyes of God. He displayed by through acts such as washing the disciple’s feet: “After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:5) By washing His disciple’s feet, Jesus showed us that we must not be conceited and treat others as we would like to be treated. A hero must not boast about their abilities and see themselves as better than everyone else. A hero is humble and is one with their people. We do not call arrogant people heroes for doing good deeds that they boast about. The people we call heroes are people who do their good deeds silently. Jesus was one of those people, and never boasted about performing miracles. Instead, he made sure that everyone around him felt valued. This is why Jesus can be titled a true hero.
Jesus is someone that we can all describe as a true hero. He is an inspiration and role model to us; we can look up to him and learn from his actions. Jesus showed the qualities of bravery and courage when he stood up for what he believed in and did not cower when he was challenged. He preached the Good News and performed miracles even though he knew it would lead to punishment for himself. Jesus is without of doubt the most selfless man known to history. He displayed his selflessness through sacrificing his life so that we may experience eternal life. This is a very important quality of a hero, as they need to be able to do what is best for the people, even if it is not the best for themselves. Finally, Jesus showed his humility by not putting himself on a pedestal above everyone else and instead acting as an equal with His people. Jesus is worthy of being titled a hero through the qualities he displays in his actions. Jesus was a true hero in every aspect of life.
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