What is a Hero?

What is a hero? Do you really know?

Is it someone strong and vibrant who goes off and slays your enemies and upholds your friends? Or is it a football quarterback who wins the Super Bows in the last second with his “hail Mary” throw?

Christoper McDougall doesn’t think it is any of these.


“And what Plutarch taught them is this: Heroes care. True heroism, as the ancients understood, isn’t about strength, or boldness, or even courage. It’s about compassion.

When the Greeks created the heroic ideal, they didn’t choose a word that means ‘Dies Trying’ or ‘Massacres Bad Guys.’ They went with hērōs—‘protector.’ Heroes aren’t perfect; with a god as one parent and a mortal as the other, they’re perpetually teetering between two destinies. What tips them toward greatness is a sidekick, a human connection who helps turn the spigot on the power of compassion. Empathy, the Greeks believed, was a source of strength, not softness; the more you recognized yourself in others and connected with their distress, the more endurance, wisdom, cunning, and determination you could tap into.”

Christopher McDougall from Natural Born Heroes: Mastering the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance

This falls in line with what Martha Beck wrote:

Compassion, friends, is the most revolutionary power on earth — not simpering and weak, but magical, powerful, the very force of Creation. Our darkest corners are being shoved into our attention, our deepest fears made manifest. That gives us the opportunity to clear them, deeply and permanently.

~ Martha Beck  from Inside the Darkness, Shiny Objects Blog

If you want to become a hero, practice compassion. If your practice is compassion, you are a hero. Here’s a list of my heroes and heroines:

Write to me if you would like to know more about any of these heroes and heroines.

Who are your heroes and heroines?


Books by Christopher McDougall

Natural Born Heroes: Mastering the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance

Christopher McDougall

Christopher McDougall’s journey begins with a story of remarkable athletic prowess: On the treacherous mountains of Crete, a motley band of World War II Resistance fighters—an artist, a shepherd, and a poet—abducted a German commander from the heart of the Axis occupation. To understand how, M…

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