Skip to main content

What is a True Hero?


Take a moment to imagine a horrific scenario. It could be a scene from a scary movie, a traumatic childhood memory, or possibly a near-death experience. Obviously, if you’re reading this you most likely survived whatever you’ve pictured, or at least believe that you could. Now I would like you to think about how you survived or how you would survive your scenario. Though some people may embark on a thrilling adventure in their mind about how they would fight to no end and rise victorious over their terrible situation, the more humble of people would most likely think of someone else who swooped in and saved the day. Statistics prove that the majority of people have a hero in their lives of some sort. According to “The Harris Poll”, people find heroes in family members, medical personnel, military and policemen, deities, and even celebrities. Many of these types of people could in fact be considered true heroes, but what distinguishes these true heroes from ordinary heroes and do-gooders? It’s actually quite simple; a true hero is someone who sees a problem and stops at nothing to make it right. In this essay, we will be discussing this as well as what it means to bring not only good from bad, but great from good.

True Heroes Make Tough Choices:

All heroes are tasked with making a choice; to stand up and fight for the change they want in the world, or to sit back and wait for someone else to do it. In almost every heroic story or legend, there is a choice that the hero must make that will inevitably impact the entire story. For example, in the story of Odysseus, our hero must choose between remaining on his ship whilst his men are alone in Circe’s woods, or venture out and save his comrades. Both of these choices would impact the story in very different ways. If Odysseus were to stay on his ship, he would most likely lose all of his men to Circe, thus making his return to Ithaca much more difficult. If he were to leave the safety of his ship, however, he would be risking his own life for the lives of his men, but by doing this his chances of surviving and returning to his home would be much greater. Another example of this idea could be found in stories of everyday heroes, such as doctors, firefighters, and police officers. These people must make choices that not only affect their lives, but the lives of others around them. Doctors must choose between treatments, firefighters must choose whether or not to run into a burning house or building, and police officers sometimes have to choose between pulling the trigger, or risk losing the lives of innocent bystanders.

Ancient Greek statue of Odysseus

Ancient Greek statue of Odysseus

True Heroes Make Sacrifices:

Heroes must be willing to sacrifice themselves, or parts of themselves, for the greater good. Have you ever read a heroic tale that didn’t portray sacrifice? I am confident when I state that the majority of stories that revolve around a heroic character include at least one aspect of sacrifice. One example of this could easily be found in the Odyssey. The hero, Odysseus, is forced daily to not only sacrifice his men and friends to man-eating monsters, such as the cyclops, giants, and the sea monsters Charybdis and Scylla, but to also sacrifice a great deal of time that he could be spending at home with his family. Every day he spent at war, and later at sea, was a day he lost with his growing son. He sacrificed being a father for the freedom of Greece from the war with Troy. Another example of this is the lives of missionaries. They sacrifice not only time, but also money, and some even sacrifice their very lives for the sake of bringing people to Christ. With that being said, heroes are those who see the sacrifices that must be made for the greater good, but they don’t let them stop them, intimidate them, scare them into giving up, or lose sight of their task at hand. Heroes are selfless enough to persevere through their sacrifices in order to benefit the lives of others.

True Heroes Never Give Up:

True heroes are those who never give up when faced with a difficult decision or truth. One should first take note of the fact that everyone, hero or not, faces tough choices at some point in their lives. Children and teens face peer pressure and must choose to either run with the crowd, or do the right thing. Even adults and the elderly must choose to either manage their money and plan ahead for the future, or buy that cool new smart phone or new car. The point is, everyone has to make tough decisions. It is what someone chooses and how they chose that decision that makes it heroic. I can easily choose to feed a homeless person, but whether I do it for the person in need or for praise is what classifies that action as a heroic act, or a selfish act. Once again, the life of Odysseus is a prime example of this idea. He chose to leave Circe and Calypso to return to his home in Ithaca. Even though his life with either could have been luxurious and the trip across the sea would be treacherous, he still chose to return to Ithaca. However, he did not return to be recognized as a hero, he returned to reunite with his loyal wife and son who he loved dearly. Yes, he was still seen as a hero in Ithaca, but he was a true hero to his wife and son. The journey across the sea in only a handmade raft would be beyond taxing for Odysseus, but he did it anyway for his longing to reunite with his family, and to ultimately bring order and security back to his home. I say this for as soon as Odysseus arrived and reclaimed his rightful place as ruler, the suitors that had invaded Ithaca were defeated. With all this considered, heroes are those who make tough decisions for the purpose of benefiting others, and not just themselves.

What is a True Hero?...

In conclusion, while the mentioned distinctions between ordinary and true heroes may be few, their meaning and significance are greater than their quantity. Although some may argue that there is no such thing as a true hero, true heroes are those who step up and make the changes that are needed for the growth and well being of our world and the people in it. Not just do-gooders who pick up trash on the street for a pat on the back. Heroes can be found everywhere, however, those considered true heroes not only part from the crowd to make a difference, but are strong enough to make tough decisions, sacrifice, and to never give up when challenged. Today, I challenge you to not just be an ordinary hero to someone, but a true hero who impacts not only their day, but their life. Don’t be a regular do-gooder, be an Odysseus.

Works Cited

“Ancient Greece Reloaded.” Ancient Greece Reloaded, Accessed 12 Feb. 2021.

Scroll to Continue

Related Articles