Can our culture today produce a real hero?


With the holidays approaching I notice that more movies are being released, probably to account for the many people who like to watch films with their families.

I like action and adventure tales myself. However, increasingly I find it difficult to watch movies because the heroes don’t make sense to me.

Typically, you find the person is given a special power or talent and then they are thrown into some fantastic situation, and are expected to save others.

What I find incredulous is not so much the disbelief that one can hone such power in the short period of time. Rather, it is that such “heroes” are typically cast as the undisciplined rebellious type, who, due to circumstances, comes to do great and selfless acts.

While these fictitious stories may be fun escapes from reality, I fear they misrepresent who a real hero is. They distort how we define and recognize true acts of courage.

As I watch these “Hollywood heroes,” it is difficult for me to suspend my disbelief, or believe that these fictional heroes are plausible characters. I find myself wondering: how does one go from living a self-centered life to performing acts of great self-sacrifice? How does one who show no motivation or self-discipline, then suddenly exercise extreme self-discipline in the harshest of circumstances?

In reality, they don’t.

Real heroes are developed long before these extreme circumstances are thrust upon them. Certain characteristics like self-discipline, strong moral convictions, or a keen sense of what is right and wrong, deep compassion and respect for others are all engrained over time.

And when these characteristics are put to the test, men and women act in ways consistent with their convictions, revealing true courage.

While many of us will probably never experience the life-and-death challenges of our Hollywood heroes, and we may not come face to face with great historical challenges faced by great heroes like George Washington, Frederick Douglas, and Mother Theresa, all of us face moments of testing which try our own courage and challenge what our convictions truly are.

Whether it’s saying that we believe in being honest and being tested to tell a “little white lie,” or saying that we believe in helping others and then not doing so because we are too busy, or fudging a little in our finances so that we can get ahead a little — such situations seem innocuous enough, but these are heroic challenges that we often face, for they require self-discipline, sacrifice, and the willingness to honor the convictions we say that we hold dear.

Heroes, real heroes, aren’t simply made; they are forged through significant and seemingly insignificant circumstances. They demonstrate courage in the face of adversity, and in an increasingly challenging economic and cultural environment, so can we.

Whether we are political leaders, mothers and fathers, employees, or even military personnel, we can demonstrate nobility and quiet courage in those moments of decisions that challenge us either to do the right thing or to do what is convenient and expedient.

Hopefully, when the situation occurs and a heroic decision, act, or word is needed, we will recognize it, and our hearts and lives will be ready to be a true hero.

[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]