When you search for the word “hero” on dictionary.com, you get this general definition:
He-ro / n: a person with distinguished courage and ability; someone admired for heroic qualities or deeds; a being with godlike prowess, sometimes honoured as divinity; or a hero sandwich.
That’s an incredibly vague definition, and it really doesn’t bring to mind any of the heroes I admire. To be honest, the definition kind of sounds like ingredients for a sandwich–as if courage, good deeds, and godlike prowess are all you need to make a good hero.
Heroes are, of course, a heck of a lot more than this. And every hero is different. They come in different shapes and sizes, with hugely varying personalities, techniques, and ingredients. Some heroes are simple, the everyday heroes who return lost money and give out free flowers. Then there are heroes like firemen and doctors, saving lives everyday; heroes who change the world and society; heroes who sacrifice themselves for a cause–and then there are the heroes we read about, write about, or watch on TV. There are so many different levels of heroism, it’s impossible to label just three ingredients that apply to them all.
In the spirit of the sandwich, here are some more ingredients that I think are important for making a hero. Just like sandwiches, the ingredients can be combined in any variation, and sometimes ingredients are left out or added. So consider this a condensed menu of heroic qualities, and see what some of your favourite “hero sandwiches” include.
- Strength: strength of all sorts. Physical, spiritual, or mental strength. Sometimes their strength is in their conviction or faith, or maybe its their strength of love. Strength comes in all different types and can apply to all different qualities, but is a defining trait in many of the heroes who bear great responsibility.
- Courage and Bravery: fearlessness, boldness, daring. This allows a hero to stand up to impossible odds and terrifying obstacles. It can be a matter of protecting something they love, or just doing what they know must be done. Courage and bravery wash away a hero’s fear.
- Compassion: a love for those who are weaker or in need, and a desire to help. Compassion helps a hero to sympathize with others, gives them a reason to fight, and keeps their hearts pure and good. Compassion is also the link that binds a hero to the people he or she loves.
- Faith: a belief in something that isn’t easily understood. Whether it’s a belief in magic, religion, or their own capabilities, faith helps heroes move through times of darkness and hold onto hope. It can be the shining light of optimism that brings a hero out of despair.
- Endurance: the ability to persevere through difficult situations without losing hope or strength. Sometimes, there are circumstances that heroes can’t avoid. They are forced into painful situations and lengthy periods of trial, and without endurance, a hero’s defences can crumble.
- Suffering: some sort of pain that sharpens a hero’s desire to reach his or her goals. I don’t like to see my heroes suffer, not really, but I like to know that they have felt pain. I like to be connected to them in the shared human experience of sorrow and injury, and I like to know that they are trying to eliminate the pain by achieving their goals. Not every hero needs to suffer, but many are made stronger for it.
- Humility: acknowledgement of their humanity and mortality. Heroes may be stronger, braver, or fiercer, but they aren’t necessarily more invincible than any of the rest of us. They started the same way, born vulnerable and innocent, and in their flesh are undeniably connected to those less heroic. Not all heroes are the same as us, but all heroes can have a sense of humility.
- Fear: a feeling of helplessness or anxiety. I feel that heroes who have fears and anxieties like most people are not only more realistic, but sometimes stronger than a hero who is entirely fearless. Whether heroes are able to overcome their fears or are defeated by them, there is strength in being able to fight them and continue on, no matter how scared they are.
- Failure: an inability to succeed, whether because of overwhelming odds or a personal mistake. I don’t like the heroes who succeed every time as much as I like the heroes who occasionally fall down, who slip up, and who have to struggle to win. Sometimes a hero needs a chance to fight for what they believe in, and that’s impossible when everything in handed to them on a plate.
Everyone has different preferences. I don’t like olives on my sandwich, but maybe you do. So while I like a hero who suffers, maybe you don’t like to see a hero in pain. That’s okay. Whatever combination you like and however many ingredients you like, there has to be balance. A hero who has too much strength can become a monster, and a hero with too many failures can snap under the weight of despair. The exact same way that too much pepper makes you sneeze or too many onions makes your breath smell for the rest of the day. Everything in moderation.
So even though heroes are more remarkable than a simple sandwich, they’re like sandwiches in the sense that there’s a lot that goes into them. It’s what makes them unique.
What sorts of ingredients do you like in your hero sandwich?
May your hero sandwich be perfectly tailored to suit your own unique tastes.