What Makes a Hero a Hero

Hero, as defined by Wikipedia, is as follows:

A hero is a person or main character of a literary work who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through impressive feats of ingenuity, strength, or bravery, often sacrificing his or her own personal concerns for some greater good.

Some people's heroes are sports stars, others are actors or actresses, some idolize celebrities who have "made it," past leaders in history, or even their parents. For the most part, my heroes tend to fall in the category of authors. As someone who is not a writer myself, I've never really been able to figure out why, exactly, authors fit the bill. When anyone asks who my heroes are, artists and counselors- you know people doing professions I do so you'd think I might want to emulate their careers- they just don't come up. Perplexing, I know. But I think I landed on a reason today.

I was at work eating lunch and losing my ability to concentrate so I hopped on to Facebook looking for that quick-fix distraction when I saw an article that a friend of mine posted about Elizabeth Gilbert (Hero. Number. One.). After clicking through the article, I read a post she shared yesterday (apparently I hadn't scrolled down far enough on my feed) where she came out to tell the world that she is in love with her best friend.  Her best friend who so happens to be female. Liz also happens to be going through a divorce to the man she ends up with in Eat Pray Love, and she admitted in her post that her divorce, in fact, was due to her being in love with someone else. 

Between the time I clicked on the post and when it loaded, my mind raced immediately to the judgy-center of my brain. There was no way that my beloved hero would have been so reckless, careless, and unable to deal with her own shit enough that she could cause such heartache. That type of behavior is reserved for people with problems; people like me, not my hero. But as I began to read her beautiful words about love and truth, I realized something. Liz Gilbert isn't one of my heroes because she always has her stuff together and I don't, its because she's got integrity, honesty, and the bravery to be fully human and admit that she doesn't need to. She's my hero because I see her living her life in all its messiness and sharing that messiness in an honest and gorgeous way, not hiding behind walls of guilt or shame or self-doubt, but proclaiming the truth.

"The truth is always an act of kindness, even when it seems like it will hurt. A lie is always an act of unkindness, even when you feel like you are being protective"

So Liz Gilbert, hero to me and many, realized she was in love with her best friend while she was married. She had a choice: know she was in love and do nothing, or act. She chose the latter, being willing to come out with the truth and deal with the consequences. She's human and learning and growing just like the rest of us, seeking truth for herself and attempting to live in that truth, no matter how messy it is. That, however weird it is to say this, is somehow inspiring to me in my own marriage as I wade through messy feelings and want to hide them sometimes out of what I think is a protecting spirit.

The Liz Gilberts, Cheryl Strayeds, Glennon Doyle Meltons, Jedidiah Jenkins, Brene Browns, and Elle Lunas of the world-- those authors who are my heroes-- I admire them because they boldly and desperately search for what makes them tick, what makes them them, and then share their lessons with us and ask us to learn along side of them. They aren't claiming to be special or know what they are doing; they fear vulnerability just like we all do, but they go for it and share for the greater good. They are heroes for that- helping us along our way as we attempt to do the same, maybe in smaller or less dramatic ways, but still the same nonetheless. 

And isn't that exactly who we all are if we share our stories with each other-  heartbreaking as they may be- lifting each other up rather than jumping to judgement? Aren't we heroes when we lean into what makes us vulnerable instead of shy away from it, and be honest with ourselves and our families and friends, even communities? 

Here's to being brave and honest and raw in our weakness. Here's to lessons learned and shared. Here's to making it messy in order to have integrity. Here's to strength in sharing for the greater good. Here's to heroes, likely and unlikely. May you be one for yourself and others today.