I used to say I didn’t have any heroes. Because we’re all human, right? We all have faults and make mistakes. I was so wrong. We need heroes.
According to psychology, we need heroes…
Psychology says having a hero creates an emotion called elevation. Elevation is a feeling of awe and admiration. It feels a lot like hope.
It all started with cavemen…
Our cavemen ancestors gathered around a fire at the end of the day for food, community, and — inevitably — stories. Usually, the stories were about the heroic actions, bravery and excellence that let them survive another day.
If they failed to bring down the beast, the story of “the big one” gave everyone hope and belief. Telling and retelling stories calmed people’s fears, buoyed their spirits and fostered belief and resilience.
But, what is a hero?
The word hero comes from the ancient Greeks. They believed a hero was a mortal who did something so far beyond the scope of normal human behavior that they’d be remembered and revered for all time. Almost immortal.
A hero can change our beliefs…
We all know the Roger Bannister story. Doctors and scientists once believed the human body could not run a mile in under 4 minutes. It was the limits of the human anatomy, they said. You’d die, they said. Until Bannister did it.
46 days later, another runner did it. Within a year, 3 more. 50 years later, more than 1000 runners have beat the 4-minute mile.
Half of teenagers today don’t have a hero…
The Barron Prize for Young Heroes polled American teenagers and found only half could name even one personal hero. Superman and Spiderman were named twice as often as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Lincoln or any other name you might think of as a hero.
That makes me kind of sad. How sad is the world when half of our teenagers can’t even name a living role model?
Heroes show us how to transform our lives…
Psychologists say heroes give us social identity. They become role models, providing a light in the dark that helps us find our way.
We have different heroes depending on who we are. Maybe yours is an artist, writer or humanitarian that you’d like to be more like. I hope it is.
But, how do we choose our heroes?
Acts of bravery are an easy choice. Like the 21 year old immigrant in Britain. Walking down the street, he saw a baby hanging from a 4th floor balcony. Without thinking, he threw himself at the wall and climbed the apartment, swinging balcony to balcony to save the child from falling to a sure death.
They called him a hero and gave him citizenship instantly. But you know — no one will know his name a year from now. Because, click bait. Seems like acts of bravery need to save more than one life to be remembered.
Mostly, we choose our heroes using one of two criteria
— Based on financial achievement and trappings of “success”
— Based on character, behavior, and moral stance.
I wonder if people even think about that. If they ask themselves why they look up to the people they look up to.
It feels like, more and more, we choose our heroes by the trappings of success and look the other way when those role models fail to show basic human decency. Or worse, make excuses for them. Because they’re successful, you know. So it doesn’t matter. Right? Because, bottom line, they’re successful.
I can’t possibly be the only one who finds that deeply disturbing…