Who leads your “heroes” or “most admired” list? Some of the most popular selections are Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jesus, Buddha, Nelson Mandela, and Abraham Lincoln. These historical greats are not superhuman but come with all the greatness and flaws of the human condition. Unfortunately, the human side of historical heroes is rarely discussed in popular media and books, movies, and is rarely taught before graduate school. As a result, we often find out later in life that our historical heroes have some great flaws. They are ruled by foibles, passions, and demons that are glossed over in common history. They are ruled by foibles, passions, and demons that are glossed over in common history. Passionately Flawed and a Historical Hero: Yes, It Is Both.
Day and Night; Heroes and Villains; Fact or Fiction; there cannot be one without the other.
I am working through the biographies of my “heroes” list. I do not read autobiographies as they are too curated for my taste. No one will willingly say they are terrible to their family or colleagues. I desire to try and understand their greatness in the context of their humanity and flaws. However, this is not without its cutting side. I do not know how I feel about some of my heroes now that I know more about them.
Values and societal norms are relative to the people and time period. They are not fixed and change with time. This is a good thing as cultures and societies evolve and adapt (hopefully for the better.) But when I learn about these individuals’ behaviors or beliefs that I find appalling, where does that leave me? Should I judge them by my standards or chalk it up to being the facts at the time?
I am struggling to balance the good with some of the bad. It is wrong to think anyone has achieved the status of being on a pedestal and is beyond reproach. I try to remind myself that they are all human and not perfect creatures. I strive not to lose faith or admiration for the good they did while holding them accountable for the bad. Of course, this is easier said than done.
A word of advice, be careful what you read regarding your heroes. You might not like what you learn.