Being a hero is a tricky thing. It’s a compilation of numerous positive attributes; selflessness, bravery, good timing, perhaps even a disregard for the rules. What it is not, is boastful. I hadn’t given this much thought until I saw a good deed posted on Facebook. The picture and story had received a lot of praise, many ‘likes’ and a dozen ‘shares’, but just as many nasty comments. For some, the boastfulness of the post overshadowed the so-called selfless act.
I have grown up admiring those who run forward when others run away. Police men and women, firefighters, my parents. I’ve watched news programs featuring everyday heroes, and movies where the good guy wins – often with a wry remark and blood on his face. I’ve lost count of how many charming rakes and Average Joe’s I’ve read about within the pages of good books. And many of my favourite heroes – the men and women compelled to help, whatever the risk or cost – were modest, a little self-depreciating and charmingly shy of the spotlight.
So it would seem it’s one thing to applaud people for acting heroically, and quite another for heroes to applaud themselves.
It sucks, I know – you do something amazing, something that makes another person’s life better – and you’re supposed to keep quiet about it. You’re supposed to be reluctant for someone to brag on your behalf, you’re supposed to never ask ‘what’s in it for me?’. You’re absolutely awesome, but don’t go shouting from that mountaintop, now. And don’t take a picture of your fabulous self and brag on social media, either.
What it is about grace that heightens heroism? Is it not a hero’s perogative to beat their chest and bask in the attention?
Maybe I’ve romanticised the notion of a hero and maybe I’m the only one who feels this way – but give me a modest saviour any day over one who’ll pause mid-rescue to pose for pictures.
Elise K. Ackers is a Melbourne author published with Penguin’s Destiny Romance and Harlequin’s Escape Publishing. The first in her Homeland novella series, Ask Me to Stay, features discreet hero Ethan Foster, and explores the cost of keeping a good deed secret.