What is a Hero?

 In Everyday Heroes, Hero Training

At Hero Town, we often talk about heroes and people who we consider heroes. But what is a hero, and how do we measure heroism? Today, we’re going to talk about the definition of heroism as used in our Hero Training and the characteristics that make up a hero.

Definition of a Hero

In our training sessions, we use the following definition of a hero:

Someone who voluntarily creates positive change on behalf of themselves or others, with acceptance of potential risks/sacrifice.

If we unpack that statement, this means that we refer to a person who acts selflessly for the benefit of others. The flip side of this is that a hero demonstrates understanding of an acceptance of the risks that come along with their heroic actions. What makes a hero is pursuing with these actions despite the risks, and enacts positive change as a result.

What kind of Risk Makes a Hero?

There are several kinds of risk that we talk about in regards to heroism. The kinds of loss and benefit from these different risks varies, sometimes greatly, depending on the nature of the situation. The nature of the risk also varies – it could be something as mundane as time out of one’s day, financial sacrifice, to risking one’s livelihood or personal safety.

An acceptable risk is likely to have a positive outcome or a positive change, but there is a low amount of risk. An example of an acceptable risk might be calling out to a stranger on the street who dropped their wallet and returning it to them. There is not much risk of something going wrong in this circumstance, and the likelihood of a positive outcome is high. This is both for the person who is relieved to have their wallet back, and the positive feeling of helping someone for yourself.

Secondly, a destructive risk is highly likely to hold negative outcomes, and the stakes are much higher in these situations. These situations usually arise quickly and require hasty action due to immediate peril. An example of such a situation would be witnessing a fist fight in the street. It would be a destructive risk to attempt to get in the middle and break up the fight, especially if the assailant is larger than us. Instead, we can seek outside help by approaching a guard or someone who is trained to de-escalate situations such as this.

This does not mean that we should throw ourselves into dangerous situations with reckless abandon, however.  This is where calculated risks take importance. These are situations where precautions have been taken in order to minimise risk and increase the likelihood of a positive outcome. For example, rescue teams during natural disasters often do so at great risk to themselves and to the people they are rescuing due to the dangerous nature of the situation. The teams that perform these dangerous operations are highly skilled and professionals, and undergo rigorous safety procedures in their work.

Creating positive change

That said, making the world a better place doesn’t always need to be a case of life and death. An everyday hero is also someone who performs acts of positive deviance – that is, they demonstrate behaviours or characteristics that contradict social norms in a positive way. A good example of positive deviance is going into the street with a sign that says “free hugs”, like the woman in the video below:

At Hero Town, we believe it’s important to teach individuals about heroism and how we can enact positive change in their lives and communities. This is why we offer Hero Training to anyone who is willing to step up and be a positive deviant. Learn more about how you can become trained as a hero with Hero Town Geelong.

Steph Downing

Stephanie Downing is the administrative assistant for Hero Town Geelong. Born and raised in Geelong, Australia, Stephanie is a graduate of Deakin University with her Honours degree in Professional and Creative Writing. She adores words of all sorts and is especially infatuated with the medium of poetry and fiction, with publications of her work being featured in magazines such as WORDLY Magazine, Plumwood Mountain Journal and Cordite Poetry Review.

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