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What really is a hero, anyway?

As we all hear the word "hero" used from time to time, have you ever asked yourself the question, "What is a hero, anyway?" I have asked that question many times. As I inquired into this more, and have spoken to many people about this, others also came up for me:

  • Is a hero someone we simply admire, respect, look up to?
  • Is a hero some kind of "superhero" with "super powers?"
  • Does it take a lot of money and fame to be a hero?
  • When I show courage, does that make me a hero?
  • What's involved in being a hero?
  • Can we call ourselves a hero?
  • Why do we have such a weird relationship to the word "hero?"

You may have asked yourself these same questions. So, let's start now by looking at the concept of "hero" and "heroism."

While there are many interpretations of what a hero is, I have adopted the definition used by the Heroic Imagination Project:

Heroes are people who transform compassion (a personal virtue) into heroic action (a civic virtue). In doing so, they put their best selves forward...

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