No I have not seen Hollywood’s new block buster, “The Avengers.” Though I loved the Hulk as a young boy, quite frankly I took a a pass on this movie. I guess I am tired of the endless supply of formulaic superhero movie plots that display how the super-powered heroes save the beleaguered planet yet again for us weaklings.
Yet, maybe not so surprising, these superheroes are thriving everywhere today. Why are we mortals so drawn to these strange-looking costumed fictional men and women? Could it be we feel less than superhero in real life and need a positive message that we too can overcome the trauma of our past and the boredom of our present to make a difference in this world? “Oh to escape the mundane and become one of those legendary individuals that perform heroic sacrificial acts that will save the world from injustice and destruction (or at least someone’s life)!”
It gets me thinking about the whole world of heroes. What do you think defines a hero? Is there a lack of real-life heroes in our world today? Is there, as Bette Midler belted in her hit song, a hero inside of you? My guess is that there is.
Now let me quote a verse that seems to lack in Hollywood-heroism. But I think there is a hero inside of this verse! Check it out. Proverbs 20:22 says, “The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the grey head.” You say, “Really? What part of this proverb sounds heroic to you? Certainly not the grey head!” Well, presently I have three strapping sons in their twenties, which means my thinning hair is becoming somewhat whiter by the day! But white, grey or silver hair doesn’t qualify anyone for a hero. I am attempting to reveal what makes young men glorious and old men beautiful (heroic). If I dig deeper into this verse I see the encouragement to young men and older guys to live a heroic life. It begins as a process. There is a process for all boys to grow into the strength of a young man and then hopefully into the maturity of a wise man. A young man is slowly discovering new strength to care for himself and watch out for the good of others. The older sage has non-wasted life-experience giving him his stage to offer moral, spiritual and relational strength to others.
This is beginning to read like an old guy and young guy coming of age story. (Sorry women and girls). It doesn’t take much for a young man to gain muscle, a little exercise suffices. Too many young guys spend every spare minute at the gym trying to sculpt the Superman pose. A young man needs guidance to show them that developing strength in all areas of his life will ensure that they don’t remain boys in a man’s body. A sage will help him discover this wisdom.
How does a young man discover the strength to make heroic decisions and finally make the transition to becoming an influential sage that others can respect and emulate? Here are some of my thoughts:
Be ready to struggle for what is right and true. Heroes usually travel the path of adversity, they willingly face hardship or conflict. The path of least resistance will keep you in the cocoon of immaturity far too long. Like the butterfly, it is the struggle of escape that will cause the moral fibers of your wings to twitch with excitement and take flight into adulthood! As you encounter evil face-to-face and defeat it, the transformation into a true hero emerges. As you fight against aimlessness and the dark impulses in yourself, truth and strength then emerge in your character.
One young man that asked me for friendship desperately needed modeling more than friendship. Together we talked about his responsibility and growth. The first area that I challenged him in was with his girlfriend. It seemed to me he would forever be a boy with a girlfriend, enjoying the fruits without taking the word ‘commitment‘ seriously. If he was to be spared from repeating his teenage years of using his physical strength, making out with as many young women as possible, there needed to be a moral decision taken on his part. “Do you truly love her?” I asked. He assured me that he did. “Then now is the time you need to covenant with her in marriage,” I added. He took my advice to heart and I am observing from close up the strong responsible caring wings of two lives sharing married love and friendship. I simply challenged him to struggle for what was right and true.
Discover your mission in life. Heroes usually live for something that is worth dying for. I remember as a boy how much I loved shooting my arrows into a target. Many a bullfrog met his demise at my hands. As a boy everything seemed like an adventure, collecting old stuff, catching snakes, fishing in the stream, camping in a tent, raising rabbits with my Dad, and making new friends. I didn’t want to leave boyhood. And yet with time there was something in me wanting to find my place in this world. What could I do to help bring meaningful change and hope to others? In the end heroes find their mission and will stand up and fight because they know that if they don’t others will be hurt, abused and maybe even die.
One of the surest ways to find something that is worth living for is the self discovery of who you are and the uncovering of the amazing abilities you have. Forgive me if this sounds a little bit like self-help gobbledygook. But many of us find this kind of discovery too difficult on our own. We need others to help us to discover what makes us laugh and cry and help us articulate what the life we were created to live looks like. Once we are on the road of understanding, the confidence level to walk in the direction of our purpose goes right up, the willingness to sacrifice for the good of others dramatically increases and so does the level of personal peace and satisfaction.
Lately, as an aging individual, I’ve found myself feeling the need to encourage young men and women to walk like heroes and fight the good fight of righteousness and truth. This past January I walked through one of the saddest slums in all of Liberia, Africa, I asked the people, “What are you doing to help the children?” There was no hope in there answer. They simply shrugged their shoulders and said, “The government is doing nothing and so we are powerless to do anything.” I said, “No, you can do something. You start your own schools. You start your own companies. You must do something!” I am sure they found my message amusing. But I found myself shaking afterwards and saying to myself, “If I had another life, I’d come back here and set up a school for children.” I only hope some young man or women will overcome their poverty mentality and fear to do something heroic to change the future of that sad slum community.
This incident reminds me that the reason why we love our heroes is because they have the very characteristics we want to see on our own lives. A good start in finding the hero in our own life is to identify what those characteristics are. Is it courage, compassion, determination, perseverance or humility? Now that I’ve said all this about being a hero, I almost want to go and watch ‘The Avengers” and see them kick evil’s dirty butt. But no, I won’t because I want to look around me and see if it is you that is becoming a hero. Hey, don’t look so surprised!