As a kid, all of my focus was on the power or skill that my favorite superhero had. I assumed in my childlike mind that power, skill, and vanquishing the bad guy was the true hallmark of a hero.
The following four attributes provide a typical dictionary definition of a Hero:
a: a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability
b: an illustrious warrior
c: a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities
d: one who shows great courage
These are great definitions, but I believe that something is missing. The next time you watch a super hero movie; notice the reactions of others to the presence of the hero. While Batman was not my favorite hero as a kid, I have come to appreciate more recent movie depictions. I like the portrayal of what the hero means to others. The true hallmark of a hero is the influence his/her life and behavior has on others. A true hero is a servant of the people and the values they hold dear.
Moving on to real life, think of situations where the presence of someone else has been essential to your inspiration. This person’s presence is not necessarily linked to their abilities or skill, but is linked to what they mean to the rest of the group. In the competitive sports teams I have been involved with, there was always a team member or two who inspired everyone just by being there. If these individuals were not, even if we still won, it felt different. You may know people like this.
Now there is a real danger in this. I do not advocate hero worship! Never put your trust and devotion in the heroes of this world. History is replete with leaders and heroes who disappoint and disillusion.
As leaders, we can be heroes by living moral lives, but we must shun the flattery that comes when we are recognized for our examples. The Savior was of course our prime example. He was our very Savior but he cautioned at the same time that he was not to be our object of worship just our object of emulation. Even Jesus was “taught obedience by the things which he suffered.” He directed all praise and worship to the Father.
As men and women, husband and fathers, and as leaders in life and business, we need to be heroes. But our heroism is in doing what is right and by living moral and righteous lives. Our heroism is to stand up against the “wiles of the devil;” to be “in the world but not of the world.” We need to teach our children to have the courage to be the first one to give someone else courage by walking away from the dirty joke, or walking out of an inappropriate movie. We should teach our children to be the one who is the friend to the friendless - to serve and not seek to be served. But we as adults also need to take our own advice in these matters.
Superheroes in comics and movies may truly be powerful and highly skilled, but they also inspire others. We can be superheroes by living moral and righteous lives and being the one who marks the way for others to follow the Savior. But in being the hero, we must deflect all praise and accept personal responsibility for our faults and errors. For while we all can influence and serve by being an example to others and by so doing encourage them to follow Christ, we also must remember that we are each responsible for our own sins and we must all work out our own salvation.
Only one can save but we can all be heroes.