You don’t have to be totally awesome in order to be and do totally awesome.
Many think of Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. as heroes or saints.
Many of us lead ourselves to believe that they must have been perfect beings (or at least pretty darn close).
Then we starting thinking thoughts like, well, that is all fine and good for those heroes and saints of the past to do great, but those people were truly special and amazing. They were not ordinary like we are.
We think that they were able to contribute to the world in such a profound way because they were somehow specially gifted, or without the usual human failings.
We don’t think of them as screw-ups or as people with disturbing attributes.
Our world is a different and better place because of people like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Often regarded as saints or heroes, their huge hearts, massive impact, discipline, and drive have changed life on our planet forever.
We think well, maybe Gandhi could do it, but I am just a normal person, with normal talents, normal aspirations and normal faults. The problem is that because we allow this type of thinking, it allows us to hide behind our “normalness” in order to hide from contributing to our world in a meaningful way. We hide behind mediocrity.
When we take a more wholistic view of the entirety of who Gandhi was, however, we realize he was far from perfect. Want an example of Gandhi not being so perfect? As an old man, Gandhi slept with young women in his bed in order to supposedly test his commitment to celibacy.
Yet, he still lead the movement of nonviolence that freed India from centuries of British rule. Not bad for a dirty old man, huh?
Martin Luther King Jr. who lead the civil rights movement in the United States, we are told, was a womanizer of huge proportions. Martin Luther King Jr., who preached about fidelity, was not so perfect either.
Because people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. have taken on a saint-like quality in terms of how they are remembered, their humanness and the foibles that come along with that humanness are sometimes forgotten. To forget their humanness is a cop-out that allows the rest of us to cop out.
What about our modern day hero?
Maybe in modern days we don’t yet know who the next Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. will be, but we do see examples of regular people (and famous people) having a strong influence in our current world and making it a better place.
Like what about Oprah? She founded the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for girls in South Africa. It is a school that provides more than 150 disadvantaged African girls with education and opportunity. Awesome.
Many will agree that Oprah is extraordinary.
Yet, Oprah has more than once made a huge fool of herself in a very public way. For example, in 2004 she touted a fool proof weight loss formula where she lost 75 kilograms only to gain 90 kilograms back a year later. Oops, that was embarrassing.
Other modern day heroes are people like Richard Branson who is known for living life to its fullest and for contributing a lot to charity and social movements. His work has had a huge impact in bettering our world. And yes it seems like he is a bit of a pig dog too.
Oprah despite her embarrassing moments, is still so inspiring to so many. And Sir Richard, well as I read once, has the heart of a lion and acts like it.
So, the lesson is this, don’t let the fact that you are a f*#k up get in the way of you being a modern day hero. And don’t worry about the scale of what you can do in terms of doing good. Just do something meaningful to contribute back to our fellow humans and planet.
The truth is heroes don’t wait until they are perfect before doing amazing things. They simply get on with doing amazing things.
If we wait until we are a “better person” before we astound ourselves and the world, we may be waiting so long the time will never come.
Sure, we all want to do better and wish we did not end up making a fool of ourselves at that party, or wish we were more consistent with our kind words, or loving acts, and generous acts of kindness. Yet the truth is that just because we feel we can’t make as much of an impact as Richard Branson or Oprah Winfrey, that is no excuse
As Mother Theresa said: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
Let’s get on with it already.
By Val Hemminger, the nonconforming professional
Return from modern day hero
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