To be honest, beyond a Hollywood set, dialed in makeup artist and substantial wardrobe, I’m not really sure what it takes to be a superhero?  Born from the pages of comic books, these uniquely costumed characters utilize extraordinary talents to protect the lowly and non-magically gifted citizens of their chosen city in peril.  They are immune to fear and act more out of responsibility than care.  Superheroes are intriguing and inspiring and certainly quite profitable, but are they really heroes?

In general, the concept of hero has always been a bit vague.  It seems to either be used synonymously with terms like, “role model” and “mentor,” or reserved only for those whose occupations lend to it’s daring imagery, like the military or firefighters.  But the truth is, heroism has nothing to do with mentoring or profession.  While each carry components of heroic potential, neither meets the simple, yet required, criteria of both Bravery and Kindness.

Bravery and Kindness, along with a need for action, are the lone ingredients to heroism.  In the context of heroes, bravery is the willingness, either consciously or unconsciously, to take action when there is real potential that doing so will come at a signifiant cost to livelihood or life.  Similarly, kindness involves action taken without obligation but rather out of empathy and caring.  Using these criteria we can see that a role model, while acting with kindness, does not require bravery and that a firefighter, while brave, acts out of professional obligation more so than kindness.  Therefore, neither is a hero, though both are still undoubtably great people!

So where does that leave us in our quest to become superheroes?  Technically, I suppose acting class is our only real option?  However, to be everyday heroes, the kind that can have a profound impact on life, our task is to develop our capacities for bravery and kindness so that, if ever presented the opportunity, we are ready to act.

I’ll write much more on the topics of heroism, bravery and kindness in subsequent posts.  Subscribe to The Hero’s Handbook to stay updated.