I’ve written about the need to expand the definition of the hero. But it’s not enough to describe what a hero is; we also need to know what a hero is not.
A hero is not meant to be a sacrifice. The sacrifice part of heroism is incidental, a by-product of taking action to aid others. Sacrificing one’s own life or well-being is not the goal of a hero; it just sometimes happens to those willing to make a stand.
When you put yourself out there in defense of others, you are at greater risk for injury, whether physical, mental, or both.
In contrast, someone who is a sacrifice from the beginning is actually just a victim, a passive “lamb” to be taken to the proverbial slaughter. But sometimes we confuse sacrifices for heroes.
We don’t become heroes by just suffering. We become heroes by suffering and then taking action to rise above, fight back, and make things better!
When a soldier, a firefighter, or a good Samaritan is hurt or dies while trying to protect the lives of others, it generally is not their intention to simply be a sacrifice. Because a sacrifice can’t help anyone. A hero, on the other hand, strives to survive so they can continue to help themselves and others flourish.
There are numerous examples of heroes, of course. Just a few include:
- Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on the bus one fateful day 60 years ago, because she was “tired of giving in” to racism.
- Those who acted to help victims in the wake of the 2013 Boston marathon bombing, proving once again that “terrible moments show our strength.”
- The man who saved a pregnant woman dangling from a window of the Balaclan Theater during the recent Paris terrorist attack.
What do all of these stories have in common? The people involved were confronted with difficult situations and chose not to be victims. They didn’t even intend to be heroes. They became heroes as a by-product of finding the resolve to take a stand against oppression in a way that was brave, humble, and persistent.
Heroism is more than just being a passive representative of some group that is “being oppressed.” Heroes by definition are those that take action to uphold an ideal consistently over time. They uplift society at large, whether on a grand scale or by helping one person at a time.