Friday, October 23, 2015

What makes a Hero?

Once, only hours after her death, a husband was speaking to me about his wife, and described her as "heroic." He told me about her difficult upbringing and childhood in a coal mining town, and the hard work it took for her to achieve all that she had: not only the first in her family to attend college but having earning a Ph.D. as well! Forging a successful career in a competitive field. Not to mention all that she had put into maintaining a strong marriage. 

How do you define "heroic?" Perhaps you'd define it differently and expect greater achievements, or more impressive accomplishments, or memorable acts of valor or sacrifice? And you wouldn't necessarily be wrong. Surely each one alone could contribute to someone's being described as "heroic." And that's the point: heroism is hard define, but you know it when you see it. 

Have you ever thought of a loved-one as "heroic?" Was it because of their behavior in a particular instance, or was their heroism displayed over a series of events, each contributing to your thinking of them as heroic? Heroism is hard to define, but you know when you see it. 

Have you ever been called heroic, or a hero, or received praise for your heroism? If you have, did you think it was well-deserved, or did it surprise you to be thought of that way, as heroic? Perhaps a bit of both? It's not uncommon for an outsider to look into another's daily life and see what they do day-in and day-out, and marvel at how they do it!

And yet that person could quite likely think nothing of it, perhaps thinking: "it's just my job," or "I'm so used to it by now," or" it was nothing." But that might only be because they define heroism as charging up a hill in battle or rescuing children from a burning building. Yes, those are certainly heroic but remember that heroism is hard to define, even when you know it when you see it - and I challenge each of us to see it in ourselves; to value and appreciate that what we do, day-in and day-out, is considered heroic by some people. 

Maybe you've been told so, maybe you haven't. So tell yourself! Define heroism not only by what you see in others, but also by what others see in you.

3 comments:

Unknown said...

I agree that "Define heroism not only by what you see in others, but also by what others see in you." To elaborate, being a hero and/or heroic tends to be associated with action. However, it is equally important to mention sometimes being heroic is the ability to be patient. History and Hashem will be the judge if action or inaction was the heroic act.

Sarah

Rabbi Eric M. Berk: Blog said...

Sarah, thank you for your much needed comment - well said!

sarah krause said...

Thank you. As Jews we read from right to left. Did you know stressed spelled backwards is desserts?

So relieve your stress with desserts!

Shavua tov,

Sarah