I wondered when I was little what it would be like to have a famous alter-ego. Like Locke or Demosthenes in Ender’s Game, or Batman in the Marvel comics, or the Power Rangers. Yeah, I remember watching Power Rangers.

The thought of having an ability to influence people beyond what normally happened, and living a dual life, intrigued me beyond imagination. I even went so far as to pretend what it would be like if I had superpowers like being able to manipulate electricity (Cole McGrath, anyone?), or water (last of the Airbenders?) or make the air thick enough to walk on.

It didn’t take me very long to realize that there really aren’t any superheroes like you see in movies. The closest you get is modern science and illusion. But at the same time, I felt like the most amazing things that happened in my life – the key moments that made me who I am – were often associated with quiet, silent actions from someone whose name I can’t even remember. A teacher who sat down with me to open my mind. A line or phrase in a poem or song that stuck and changed me. A concept that moved the needle in my heart far enough to make me a better man.

And maybe that’s better. I think that hero-worship can rob humanity of its essence for good. By exalting one person above the throngs, we deify people who were never meant to be deified. And, in part, offload the burdens of individual humanity onto another. If there’s a hero who will save the day… or who will be there for others, why should I put my own time, resources, or life on the line? When we engage in hero-worship, all those who put their time and lives on the line are marked as a “hero” – disconnected from the reality of their imperfection. Even their everyday actions become worthy of honor, and in our minds they can never do wrong.

Even without superheroes, we engage in hero worship.

The last few years I’ve seen that. What begins as a desire to simply make a difference in the world gets catapulted and twisted into something grand. Living the gospel and writing about it – what we do here on Northern Lights – isn’t heroic. It’s part of who we are. And yet somehow it has become that way. I’ve been called a hero and thanked so many times that it is getting to my head. To the point that I find myself feeling like the Power Rangers – as if I have some amazing hidden talent to share with the world. And what is it – the ability to listen to the Spirit and write well? To counsel people who are in need? To apply the doctrine of the gospel in my life? If I do have them, they’re gifts of the Spirit… and freely available to anyone who seeks them.

I’m really nothing special.

And realizing that is far more meaningful than thinking about heroes.

The issue is that when we place someone on a pedestal, we rob them of humanity. Of fault and flaw and, perhaps most importantly, of being able to communicate on the same level. Every word thereafter comes from on high – either as from the heavens or from a place of arrogance. Only when they fall, or we take them down from the pedestal in our minds through some other means, do we realize that they’re just like us – imperfect and trying to make a difference in the world. And when we place someone on a pedestal – for whatever reason – we also make the inherent assumption that we could never be who they are.

This post was sort of all over the place. But I guess my thoughts are simply about how we view others. Whether we look up or down or just sideways at their actions… and how those decisions influence us. The people living with same-sex attraction. Our leaders and friends and siblings and others. We’re all brothers and sisters. Yes, we need role models to help us move toward a common goal. But you can reach and surpass your role models because they’re human too. We all are. Only One being – Christ – is worthy to stand on a pedestal. But He didn’t. He lived among men. Which means that we should, too.

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2 comments

  1. avatar

    Michael Packham

    Insightful. I once made a list of my heros, folks I wanted to emulate. The interesting thing was, that, except for the Savior, each of my heros was worthy of emulation in only one small facet of his life. I looked to one for courage, to another for wisdom, one for spirituality, another for charisma. I’m sure that each of us, in our circle of friends, family, and acquaintances, can find people demonstrating for us each of the Christ-like attributes we are to eventually have. Being able to see Christ in others is also a gift.

  2. avatar

    I like these thoughts. thanks for sharing.