Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Heroes and Villains

Heroes and villains -

Live life long enough and one is guaranteed to experience the disappointment of being let down and personal disillusionment. I can confidently say that people (from all walks of life) will let you down, as they have done me, but none hurt more than those to whom you have once heralded as a hero.

“I am of certain convinced that the greatest heroes are those who do their duty in the daily grind of domestic affairs whilst the world whirls as a maddening dreidel.”  Florence Nightingale

Our lives are intrinsically linked to role models, peer pressure and authority figures from our earliest days. It’s as much a part of life as the air we breathe.  For most of us, these experiences serve to strengthen our character, melding ones view of the world. From an early age, I was drawn to idols of screen and TV. The lone ranger, Batman, Superman, The man from UNCLE , Simon Templar, Bobby Moore and a whole host of pop stars and sportsmen.

“Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not the powers they are graced with.”  Brodi Ashton, Everneath

Those heady years of school provided more challenging role models; as It’s one thing viewing heroes from a distance and yet another standing face to face with them on a daily basis, (where the flaws and cracks are seen and felt personally).  Admiring someone from a secure vantage creates a false perspective, and in reality the truth can be quite shattering.
Barely a week passes by without news of yet another high profile icon being disgraced. Celebrities, politicians, world leaders, sports stars, financiers, bankers etc. The list increases and with it the gap between tolerable and intolerability shortens to become the norm.  Humanity desires a hero and in the absence of such (historically), will fashion its own, albeit with feet of clay. 

“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.”  Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

So why do heroes let us down?

  • Unrealistic expectation

The moment we deify an individual to superhuman status, we place an unrealistic expectation on the person and the outcome. Having trust in an individual is very different from superimposing ones expectation upon them. Projecting ones hopes onto an unrealistic outcome is fraught with challenges, and those challenges are likely to disappoint.

  •  Gift Blinded

Talents and gifts are no indication of an individual’s character and integrity. I admire talented people and actively support the arts, but I don’t seek life counsel or advice on my car from a singer. As a public speaker and life coach, I well understand the influence that a microphone can bring to an individual or crowd. Its seems that these days “celebrity” turns a talented trades person into “a subject matter expert” on almost every conceivable subject known to man. Appreciate and encourage the talent, but keep things in perspective.

“Talent is a gift, but character is a choice.”  John C. Maxwell

  • False Perspective

As a youth growing up in the club scene, we used the term “beer goggles”, to describe the heady influence that alcohol had on ones view of the world. The louder the music, darker the lights and the more we drank, the more attractive the clubbers got. Waking up the next day would often bring us down to reality. Group dynamics have a way of creating confidence in individuals, and fanaticism often ensues creating impulsive responses that seem like confidence, but in real terms is an emotional response that can create an untrue perspective.

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”  Wayne W. Dyer

  • Transference

As a pastor, I am often in the situation where an individual has placed an incredible trust in me, by sharing personal and often confidential information. The expectation placed on me is quite sobering and requires clear communication as to the nature of the support and individual responsibility we jointly share. Placing an un-announced expectation on someone else creates a relationship based on the wrong foundations. Because we are able to help people through a crisis, does not make us superhuman or a hero. I stand in the gap on behalf of people, but I am not their god.

  • Vulnerability

We are most open to influence at a point of crisis. Statistics show us that there are 5 stages in life where ones stress levels are highest.  

·         Death of a loved one
·         Divorce
·         Moving
·         Majour illness
·         Job loss

It’s at these phases in life that con-men ply their trade and become most active. Some years ago, I recall a parishioner telling me of being bombarded by visits to the house and phone calls by complete strangers trying to sell her some measure of stability and comfort. These “chancers” had seen the death notices and saw it as an opportunity to pounce. They smelled vulnerability and moved in for the kill.

“Great heroes need great sorrows and burdens, or half their greatness goes unnoticed. It is all part of the fairy tale.”  Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

It’s at times of vulnerability that a simple individual can appear like a hero. Whilst we may well appear as a superhero to someone at some point in our lives, were not! We are merely individuals with an opportunity to help someone in need. Heroes at some point will let us down and become villains.

“All heroes are shadows of Christ”  John Piper, Don't Waste Your Life

Romans 15:1-2 we who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbour for his good, to build him up.