Tue. Jul 16th, 2024

A hero, a term that we all know, but what does it truly mean? It’s a question that has puzzled many for centuries. In this article, we will explore the true definition of a hero and what makes a person a true hero. We will delve into the characteristics and traits that are often associated with heroism, such as courage, selflessness, and sacrifice. We will also examine the role of heroes in society and how they inspire us to be better versions of ourselves. So, buckle up and get ready to discover what makes a true hero, and why it’s important to recognize and celebrate them.

Quick Answer:
A true hero is someone who exhibits exceptional courage, selflessness, and a strong sense of morality in the face of adversity. They are often driven by a desire to help others and make the world a better place, even at great personal risk. True heroes possess a strong sense of empathy and compassion, and are willing to go above and beyond to help those in need. They may also display qualities such as integrity, perseverance, and humility. Ultimately, what makes a true hero is their ability to inspire and motivate others through their actions, and to leave a lasting positive impact on the world.

Defining Heroism

The Historical Perspective

Classical Antiquity

In Classical Antiquity, the concept of heroism was deeply rooted in the mythology and religion of ancient civilizations such as the Greeks and Romans. Heroes were often gods or goddesses who descended to Earth to interact with mortals, and their actions were seen as exemplary models of courage, wisdom, and virtue. Heroes such as Hercules, Achilles, and Aeneas were celebrated for their physical strength, cunning, and leadership abilities, which they used to defend their people and accomplish great feats.

The Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, the idea of heroism was heavily influenced by the Christian religion. Heroes were often depicted as knights who fought for the greater good, upholding chivalry and honor in battle. They were also expected to possess virtues such as humility, selflessness, and bravery, as exemplified by figures like King Arthur and the legendary Paladin, Gawain. The stories of these heroes were often used to convey moral lessons and instill values such as loyalty, courage, and compassion in the hearts of their followers.

The Renaissance

The Renaissance brought about a shift in the perception of heroism, with a renewed interest in classical ideals and the humanist movement. Heroes during this time were often individuals who excelled in the arts, sciences, and politics, and their actions were seen as a reflection of the human potential for greatness. Heroes such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Galileo were celebrated for their innovative ideas, their dedication to their craft, and their ability to challenge the status quo. They were seen as embodying the ideals of the “Renaissance man,” who was well-rounded, intelligent, and driven to achieve greatness in all aspects of life.

In conclusion, the historical perspective on heroism has evolved over time, reflecting the values and beliefs of each era. From the gods and goddesses of Classical Antiquity to the chivalrous knights of the Middle Ages, to the intellectual giants of the Renaissance, the definition of a hero has been shaped by the cultural, religious, and philosophical context of each time period.

The Modern Era

The Enlightenment

During the Enlightenment, heroism was defined as an individual’s ability to use reason and intellect to overcome obstacles and achieve great feats. Heroes were seen as individuals who possessed exceptional talents and abilities, and who used these talents to better society. The Enlightenment emphasized the importance of rational thought and individualism, and heroes were often portrayed as individuals who embodied these values.


Romanticism, on the other hand, viewed heroism as an expression of the human spirit and the pursuit of personal freedom. Heroes were seen as individuals who possessed a strong sense of individualism and who were willing to challenge societal norms and expectations in order to pursue their own passions and dreams. Romanticism placed a strong emphasis on emotion and intuition, and heroes were often portrayed as individuals who were driven by their own inner desires and aspirations.


In the postmodern era, the concept of heroism has been challenged and redefined. Postmodernism emphasizes the importance of questioning established norms and conventions, and heroes are often portrayed as individuals who challenge and subvert traditional power structures. Heroism is no longer seen as a fixed, objective quality, but rather as a subjective and culturally constructed concept.

Overall, the modern era has seen a shift in the way that heroism is defined and understood. Heroes are no longer simply individuals with exceptional talents and abilities, but rather individuals who challenge and subvert traditional power structures and embody the values of individualism, rationality, and personal freedom.

The Psychological Approach

Key takeaway: The concept of heroism has evolved over time, reflecting the values and beliefs of each era. The Hero’s Journey is a powerful narrative structure that has been used to analyze stories and myths throughout human history. Heroism is not a static concept; it is deeply rooted in the mythology and religion of ancient civilizations such as the Greeks and Romans. In the modern era, the concept of heroism has been challenged and redefined. The media has a significant impact on how heroism is perceived and portrayed in society. By examining the dark side of heroism, we can gain a deeper understanding of the nature of heroism and the motivations of those who embark on heroic journeys.

The Hero’s Journey

The Mythic Structure

The Hero’s Journey, also known as the monomyth, is a narrative structure that has been present in myths, legends, and stories throughout human history. This structure was first identified by Joseph Campbell in his book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” and has since been used to analyze countless stories from various cultures. The Hero’s Journey follows the journey of a hero who goes on an adventure, faces challenges, and ultimately returns transformed.

The Archetypal Hero

The archetypal hero is a central figure in the Hero’s Journey. This hero represents the idealized version of the self and embodies the values and virtues that the culture or society holds dear. The archetypal hero is often a symbol of hope, courage, and perseverance, and serves as a role model for individuals to emulate.

The Hero’s Journey is a 17-stage journey that a hero must undertake in order to achieve their goal. The stages include:

  1. The Ordinary World: The hero’s life before the adventure begins.
  2. The Call to Adventure: The hero receives a call or summons to embark on the adventure.
  3. Refusal of the Call: The hero initially refuses the call to adventure.
  4. Meeting the Mentor: The hero meets a mentor who provides guidance and support.
  5. Crossing the Threshold: The hero leaves their ordinary world behind and enters the unknown.
  6. Tests, Allies, and Enemies: The hero faces challenges and encounters allies and enemies.
  7. Approach to the Inmost Cave: The hero prepares to face their greatest fear or challenge.
  8. The Ordeal: The hero faces their greatest challenge or ordeal.
  9. Reward: The hero receives a reward for their efforts.
  10. The Road Back: The hero begins their journey back to the ordinary world.
  11. The Resurrection: The hero experiences a death and rebirth, symbolizing a transformation.
  12. The Return with the Elixir: The hero returns to the ordinary world with a newfound wisdom or treasure.
  13. The Hero’s Journey Completed: The hero’s adventure comes to an end.
  14. The Ultimate Boon: The hero achieves their ultimate goal or reward.
  15. The Freedom to Live: The hero gains the freedom to live their life fully.
  16. The Return Home: The hero returns home transformed.
  17. The Integration of the Experience: The hero integrates the lessons learned from their adventure into their life.

In conclusion, the Hero’s Journey is a powerful narrative structure that has been used to analyze stories and myths throughout human history. By understanding the stages of the Hero’s Journey, we can gain insight into the psychological and cultural significance of heroism and what it takes to become a true hero.

Heroism and Personality Traits


Courage is a key trait associated with heroism. It is often defined as the ability to face fear, danger, or adversity despite the potential for harm or injury. This definition encompasses physical courage, such as facing a physical threat, as well as moral courage, which involves standing up for one’s beliefs or values despite opposition or disapproval from others.


Compassion is another important trait that is closely linked to heroism. Compassion is the ability to empathize with others and to feel genuine concern for their well-being. Heroes often display compassion by going above and beyond to help others, even if it means putting themselves in harm’s way.


Sacrifice is a fundamental aspect of heroism. Heroes are often willing to make significant personal sacrifices for the greater good, whether it be their time, energy, or even their own lives. This selflessness is a key component of heroism, as it demonstrates a commitment to a higher purpose or set of values.


Selflessness is closely related to sacrifice and is another key trait associated with heroism. Heroes often put the needs of others before their own, putting themselves in the background and letting others take the spotlight. This selflessness can take many forms, from donating money or resources to helping others in need.

Overall, these personality traits of courage, compassion, sacrifice, and selflessness are all important aspects of heroism. They are the qualities that distinguish true heroes from ordinary individuals and inspire us to strive for greatness.

The Sociological Approach

The Cultural Context of Heroism

Social Norms and Values

Heroism is not a static concept; it is deeply rooted in the social norms and values of a given culture. It is essential to consider the prevailing norms and values of a society when examining the actions of a hero. In some cultures, heroism may be associated with bravery, self-sacrifice, and physical strength, while in others, it may be linked to intelligence, altruism, or moral courage.

Collective Identity

A hero’s actions often reflect the collective identity of a community or nation. Heroes are frequently seen as symbols of their culture’s ideals and aspirations. For example, in the United States, the image of the cowboy hero embodies the values of independence, self-reliance, and rugged individualism. In contrast, the Chinese hero Wong Fei Hung represents the virtues of martial arts, loyalty, and filial piety.

Social Change

The concept of heroism is not static; it evolves as societies change. In times of social upheaval or transition, new types of heroes emerge to reflect the changing values and aspirations of the population. For instance, during the civil rights movement in the United States, heroes such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X emerged to challenge racial inequality and fight for social justice. Similarly, in contemporary times, the rise of environmental activism has led to the emergence of heroes who champion ecological causes and defend the natural world.

By examining the cultural context in which heroism arises, we can gain a deeper understanding of the social forces that shape our perceptions of heroic behavior. It is crucial to recognize that heroism is not a universal concept but is culturally constructed and can vary significantly across different societies and historical periods.

The Impact of Media on Heroism

Heroic Role Models

Media has a significant impact on how heroism is perceived and portrayed in society. It shapes the minds of the younger generation and creates an ideal image of what a hero should be. Media presents heroic figures who possess qualities that society deems desirable, such as courage, selflessness, and integrity. These role models serve as an inspiration for many, particularly children, who seek to emulate their actions and values. The media’s portrayal of heroes influences how people view heroism and the expectations placed on those who aspire to be heroes.

The Portrayal of Heroes in Media

The way heroes are portrayed in media plays a crucial role in shaping public opinion and the definition of heroism. Movies, television shows, and books often depict heroes as larger-than-life figures who save the day through their physical strength, intelligence, or supernatural abilities. This portrayal creates an unrealistic and often unattainable standard for what it means to be a hero. In many cases, the media emphasizes the spectacular and dramatic aspects of heroism, while downplaying the more mundane but equally important acts of courage and selflessness that occur every day.

Additionally, media often perpetuates a narrow and stereotypical view of heroism, which is predominantly associated with men. While there are many female heroes in media, they are often portrayed in traditional gender roles, such as being physically attractive or nurturing. This reinforces gender stereotypes and limits the potential for diverse representation in heroic narratives.

Moreover, media’s portrayal of heroes often focuses on individualistic actions, neglecting the importance of collective action and social change. This reinforces a culture that prioritizes individual achievement over collaboration and undermines the significance of community-based solutions to societal problems.

Overall, the impact of media on heroism is complex and multifaceted. While it has the potential to inspire and promote positive values, it also perpetuates unrealistic and limiting stereotypes that restrict the potential for true heroism to flourish. Understanding the ways in which media shapes our perceptions of heroism is essential for fostering a more inclusive and diverse definition of heroism that reflects the complexities of the real world.

The Dark Side of Heroism

Heroism, often viewed as an unmitigated force for good, can harbor a darker side. This aspect of heroism, often overlooked, is the focus of this section. The following subsections delve into the nuances of heroic hubris, the tragic hero, and the anti-hero.

Heroic Hubris

Heroic hubris, or the excessive pride and overconfidence of a hero, can lead to tragic consequences. This phenomenon, also known as hubris, occurs when a hero becomes so enamored with their own abilities and accomplishments that they become blind to their own flaws and limitations. This hubris can cause the hero to make poor decisions, leading to negative outcomes for themselves and others.

For example, in the ancient Greek tale of the Trojan War, the hero Achilles is consumed by his own pride and refuses to fight alongside his fellow Greeks. This hubris ultimately leads to the death of his best friend, Patroclus, and the delay of the war’s end. Achilles’ tragic flaw, his excessive pride, leads to his own downfall and the prolonging of the war.

The Tragic Hero

The tragic hero is a figure who, despite their admirable qualities and accomplishments, is brought down by their own flaws and mistakes. These flaws are often related to excessive pride, ambition, or a tragic flaw. The tragic hero’s downfall is the result of their own actions, rather than those of others.

An example of a tragic hero is Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Macbeth, a brave and valiant warrior, is consumed by his own ambition and greed. He becomes convinced that he must kill the king in order to claim the throne for himself. This flaw in judgment leads to a series of events that ultimately result in Macbeth’s downfall and the death of those around him.

The Anti-Hero

The anti-hero is a character who, unlike traditional heroes, lacks traditional heroic qualities such as altruism, bravery, and selflessness. Instead, the anti-hero is often selfish, self-centered, and morally ambiguous. Despite these flaws, the anti-hero may still be capable of heroic actions, but they are driven by personal gain rather than a desire to help others.

An example of an anti-hero is the character of Tony Soprano from the television show “The Sopranos.” Tony, a mob boss, is often selfish and violent, but he also has a complicated moral code and is capable of acts of kindness and generosity. Despite his flaws, Tony is still a central figure in the show and is considered a hero by some viewers.

In conclusion, the dark side of heroism includes the concepts of heroic hubris, the tragic hero, and the anti-hero. These concepts demonstrate that heroism is not always a straightforward, noble quality, but can be complex and flawed. By examining the dark side of heroism, we can gain a deeper understanding of the nature of heroism and the motivations of those who embark on heroic journeys.

Philosophical Approaches to Heroism

Virtue Ethics

Aristotle’s Virtues

In Aristotle’s view, a hero is someone who possesses the virtues of courage, practical wisdom, and justice. According to him, these virtues are necessary for living a fulfilling life and achieving greatness.

Courage and Practical Wisdom

Courage is one of the most important virtues for a hero, as it allows them to face danger and adversity with bravery and determination. Practical wisdom, on the other hand, enables a hero to make sound judgments and decisions, even in difficult situations. Together, these two virtues help a hero to navigate the complexities of life and achieve their goals with integrity and honor.


The Search for Meaning

Existentialism is a philosophical perspective that emphasizes individual freedom and personal responsibility. According to this view, people must create their own meaning in life and are responsible for their choices and actions. This means that individuals must determine their own values and purpose, rather than relying on external sources such as religion or society.

Authenticity and Freedom

In existentialism, the concept of authenticity is central to the idea of heroism. Authenticity refers to the ability to act in accordance with one’s true self and to be true to oneself. This means that a hero must act in accordance with their own values and beliefs, rather than conforming to societal expectations or external pressures.

Furthermore, existentialism posits that true heroism requires a high degree of personal freedom. This means that heroes must be willing to take risks and make sacrifices in order to pursue their own goals and values, even if it means going against the norms of society. In this sense, the hero’s journey is not just about achieving external goals, but also about personal growth and self-discovery.


Postmodernism is a critical approach to understanding the concept of heroism in contemporary society. This approach is characterized by a skepticism of grand narratives and a focus on the decline of heroism in the modern world.

The Decline of Heroism

One of the key tenets of postmodernism is the idea that heroism has declined in the modern world. This decline is attributed to the breakdown of traditional social structures and the loss of shared cultural values. In this context, the heroic figure is seen as an anachronism, an outdated relic of a bygone era.

The Critique of Grand Narratives

Another important aspect of postmodernism is its critique of grand narratives. Grand narratives are overarching stories that attempt to explain the world and human experience in a comprehensive and totalizing way. According to postmodernism, grand narratives are inherently flawed because they impose a false sense of order and coherence on the world. In the context of heroism, postmodernism argues that grand narratives about heroic figures and their deeds are equally problematic. These narratives often serve to reinforce dominant power structures and perpetuate social inequalities.

Overall, the postmodern approach to heroism emphasizes the limitations and contradictions of traditional heroic narratives, highlighting the need for a more nuanced and critical understanding of the concept of heroism in contemporary society.

Feminist Ethics

The Feminine Hero

Feminist ethics is a branch of philosophy that focuses on the ethical issues and challenges that women face in society. It also examines the role of women in leadership and how they can challenge traditional norms and expectations.

Challenging Traditional Heroic Norms

One of the key contributions of feminist ethics to the study of heroism is its challenge to traditional heroic norms. These norms have often been shaped by patriarchal societies and have reinforced gender stereotypes and biases. Feminist ethics argues that these norms need to be questioned and re-evaluated in order to create a more inclusive and equitable understanding of heroism.

One way that feminist ethics challenges traditional heroic norms is by highlighting the contributions of women to heroic stories and narratives. For example, many traditional heroic narratives have been dominated by male characters, but feminist ethics seeks to give voice to female heroes and to recognize their achievements and contributions.

Another way that feminist ethics challenges traditional heroic norms is by questioning the assumptions and values that underlie these norms. For example, traditional heroic narratives often emphasize physical strength and courage, but feminist ethics argues that other qualities, such as empathy and compassion, are also important in creating a true hero.

Overall, feminist ethics provides a valuable perspective on the study of heroism, helping us to move beyond narrow and exclusionary definitions of heroism and to embrace a more inclusive and diverse understanding of what it means to be a hero.

The Contemporary View of Heroism

Globalization and Heroism

Heroes Across Cultures

In today’s world, the concept of heroism has evolved and expanded beyond traditional boundaries. As globalization has brought people from different cultures and backgrounds into closer contact, the idea of what constitutes a hero has become more diverse and multifaceted.

The Transnational Hero

With the increasing mobility of people across borders, the phenomenon of the transnational hero has emerged. These are individuals who have achieved fame and recognition beyond their own countries, often through their accomplishments in fields such as sports, entertainment, or science.

Examples of transnational heroes include celebrities like Beyoncé and Adele, who have fans all over the world, and athletes like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, who have become global sports icons. These individuals have transcended cultural and national boundaries, embodying the ideals of heroism that resonate with people from all walks of life.

Furthermore, the rise of social media and digital technology has enabled the dissemination of information about these heroes on a global scale, making their stories and achievements more accessible to people across the world. As a result, the concept of the transnational hero has become an important aspect of contemporary heroism, reflecting the changing dynamics of our interconnected world.

In conclusion, the globalization of heroism has broadened the definition of what it means to be a hero, encompassing individuals from diverse backgrounds and cultures. The transnational hero represents a new type of hero, one who has achieved recognition and admiration beyond their own borders, embodying the ideals of courage, resilience, and dedication that inspire people everywhere.

The Impact of Social Media on Heroism

Digital Heroes

The advent of social media has ushered in a new era of heroism, one that is characterized by the emergence of digital heroes. These individuals are ordinary people who have gained recognition and admiration for their acts of bravery and selflessness through social media platforms.

For instance, social media has provided a platform for individuals to share their stories of survival, courage, and perseverance in the face of adversity. This has led to the rise of digital heroes who have become role models for many people, particularly the younger generation.

The Role of Social Media in Fostering Heroism

Social media has also played a significant role in fostering heroism by providing a platform for individuals to share their acts of kindness and generosity. Social media platforms have enabled people to connect with others and share their stories, which has encouraged a culture of altruism and selflessness.

Moreover, social media has provided a way for people to recognize and appreciate the heroic acts of others. For example, social media platforms have created a space for people to share their admiration and respect for healthcare workers, first responders, and other essential workers who have put their lives on the line during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, it is important to note that social media has also created a platform for individuals to engage in heroic acts for personal gain or attention. This has led to concerns about the authenticity of heroism on social media and the potential for exploitation and manipulation.

In conclusion, the impact of social media on heroism is multifaceted. While it has provided a platform for the recognition and appreciation of heroic acts, it has also created opportunities for individuals to engage in heroic acts for personal gain. Therefore, it is crucial to exercise critical thinking when assessing acts of heroism on social media and to recognize the authenticity and motivations behind them.

The Future of Heroism

In recent years, the concept of heroism has undergone significant evolution. The traditional notion of heroism, rooted in physical courage and self-sacrifice, has expanded to encompass a broader range of qualities and actions. This evolution reflects the changing values and priorities of society, as well as the growing awareness of the interconnectedness of global issues.

The Evolution of Heroic Norms

The evolution of heroic norms can be observed in the growing recognition of heroism in various fields, such as science, technology, arts, and social activism. This shift acknowledges the crucial role of individuals in these fields who have made significant contributions to society and inspired others to do the same. The diversification of heroic norms has allowed for a more inclusive and comprehensive understanding of heroism, recognizing that heroism can manifest in many different forms and contexts.

The Importance of Heroism in the 21st Century

In the 21st century, the importance of heroism has become increasingly evident as society faces unprecedented challenges such as climate change, social inequality, and political polarization. Heroism has the potential to inspire and mobilize individuals and communities to take action and effect positive change. By celebrating and promoting heroic actions and values, society can foster a culture of empathy, resilience, and hope.

As the world continues to change and evolve, the concept of heroism will likely continue to adapt and evolve as well. It is important to remain open to new definitions and interpretations of heroism, as they may provide the necessary catalyst for societal progress and transformation.


1. What is a true definition of a hero?

A true definition of a hero is someone who has exceptional bravery, strength, and selflessness in the face of danger or adversity. Heroes are individuals who put the needs of others before their own, often risking their own lives to save others. They are admired and respected for their courage, integrity, and unwavering commitment to doing what is right.

2. What makes a true hero?

A true hero is someone who embodies a set of specific qualities, including courage, selflessness, compassion, integrity, and humility. They are individuals who are willing to put themselves in harm’s way to protect others, who are guided by a strong moral compass, and who are driven by a desire to make a positive impact on the world.

3. Are heroes born or made?

Both. Some people may have innate qualities that make them more naturally inclined to be heroic, such as courage and empathy. However, heroism is also something that can be developed and cultivated through experience, training, and personal growth. Anyone can become a hero by making a conscious decision to act with bravery and selflessness in the face of adversity.

4. What are some examples of true heroes?

There are countless examples of true heroes throughout history, from soldiers who have fought for their country to firefighters who have risked their lives to save others. Everyday heroes include teachers who inspire their students, healthcare workers who have cared for the sick during a pandemic, and volunteers who have worked tirelessly to support their communities.

5. How can I become a true hero?

To become a true hero, start by developing the qualities that are commonly associated with heroism, such as courage, compassion, and integrity. Look for opportunities to help others and take action when you see a need. Be willing to take risks and put yourself in uncomfortable situations if it means making a positive impact on the world. Remember that heroism is not just about physical bravery, but also about standing up for what is right and making a difference in the lives of others.

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