Called To Be a Hero

In my bookcase of my office (which is currently in transit across campus) is a book that includes an essay by author Stephen Lawhead talking about J.R.R. Tolkien, the writer he says had the largest influence on him. In it he talks about when he learned the reality that who you are as a person–your character–will come out in your writing, regardless of what you write.

That fact is something I bring up in my Narrative Writing class, and results in one of their final exam questions that I share with them the first day of class: “What is your philosophy of life and how is that reflected in your writing?”

It’s like a litmus test. For Christians, what it means is you can put on all the trappings, go through all the motions, and say all the right words. But if that’s not who you are, sooner or later, it’s going to show through.

The same thing goes for being a parent. And that’s where being a hero comes to play a part. As a young boy, I idolized my father, and someday hoped to be as good a father as he was. He was my hero.

My son has said the same thing about me. As inadequate as I may feel, he has stated that I am his hero. And now he is a father with a son of his own. So guess what that makes him.

Knowing that someone sees you are a hero is a big responsibility. I write a lot about heroes in my books. And the biggest trait that comes through when you study the word is self-sacrifice. A hero puts others before himself. It’s the primary role of a father too.

But being a hero means more than just being willing to sacrifice. It’s knowing that someone is always watching you. And their view of what makes a hero is tied directly to your behavior. That’s sometimes a heavy burden to bear, and we all slip up time and again. We’re all human. But when we accept that role, including the self-sacrifice, we’re more likely to choose a heroic path than we might have otherwise.

Knowing that someone sees me as a hero means I need to watch what I do, what I say, where I go, and what I consider important. For writers, it includes what we write; for filmmakers, it’s the films we create. Most importantly, it’s the little things that make someone a hero.

It’s heady stuff. Scary stuff, if you’re a father. But knowing that someone’s eyes are on you means it important stuff too.