As humans, we are called to acknowledge, understand and embrace our authentic identities as courageous, compassionate, joyful, humble, honest, persevering, responsible, accountable, visionary people. Anyone who claims he is less than this is simply not being honest with himself or others. Indeed, if we are not honest about our true nature, we will fail to realize our heroic nature.
Heroes who are honest with themselves accept the truth that they are not perfect and embrace the fact that they are a “work in progress.”
In going and growing towards heroic stature, they recognize the need to take an ongoing, honest and fearless inventory of themselves AND the cause to which they have turned their passion. To be true to themselves, heroes need to look themselves in the mirror on a daily basis and evaluate how they have measured up when it comes to courage, compassion, honesty, responsibility, forgiveness, serenity, patience, faith and other “heroic” virtues.
Heroes who have the courage to be honest with themselves learn that, in their essence, they are stand-ins, if you will, for what Native Americans call the “Great Spirit.” When it comes to the struggle for justice, they’re called to provide the muscle; when it comes to those who’ve been marginalized, they’re the heart of compassion; when it comes to the sick, hungry and tired, they’re the healing hands.
Heroes who are honest with themselves also face with courage the shadow side that lives within them. This shadow side is fully capable of morphing into an anti-hero, and heroes who deny this truth do so at their own peril. The shadow side may include anger, selfishness, jealousy, pride, insecurity, feral nature or destructiveness. Although the shadow is a part of who we are, it seems natural for us to deny or hide it. When we do this it is inevitable it will creep out of our inner being and we’ll end up projecting the shadow onto others – including our spouses, children, friends, and neighbors, and noticeably, on other races or cultures and societies.
How can we be honest?
“. . .take the path of the inner truth – and that means taking responsibility for everything that’s in you: for what pleases you and for what you are ashamed of. . .in . . .life nothing goes away. There is no heavenly garbage dump. Everything belongs.” ~ Catholic Priest Richard Rohr
Heroes learn and grow from their shortcomings and defects of character, and they know they are not alone. But most of all, they learn to not only love the virtues they carry within, but also to “love the leper inside.” (St. Francis of Assisi)