Who Are Your Heroes?

As usual I have several books that I am reading. The Sustainable Company, Conscious Capitalism, and Keynes and Hayak are the three that I am focused on right now. However, I just purchased Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World.” The author was on NPR the other night on Philosophy Talk, which was a fascinating discussion about Capitalism. I am totally enriched by this reading as I frame it through my understanding of Scripture.

My research continues to motivate me in my recognition of correct processes within business. Business involves profit, but only as we create value. This means that we as business people are focused on long-term value creation both economically and socially. We accomplish this by being environmentally friendly: the triple bottom-line. I am sold on this. However, what I really want to talk about this morning includes a question I want to ask myself and all of you: who are your heroes?

Warren Kozak wrote an article this morning in the paper entitled, “Lance Armstrong and Our Unheroic Age.” He starts the article by asking us, “Who were your heroes growing up?” I thought back when I was a child and came up with Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Arnold Palmer. Sunday on the Golf Channel there was story about Jack Nicklaus. He was first a family man then a golfer. It was an inspiring story, but I was more of an Arnold Palmer fan.

But now who are my heroes? Tiger Woods? Lance Armstrong? Both deeply flawed men. How about the list of individuals who were supposed to be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame? Not one of them were voted in. Steroid scandals may keep both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens out of the Hall of Fame.

But are there any heroes anymore? Is there anyone that is uncomplicated? Charles Barkley once said he was not a role model for children, but the fact is, he was a role model. Many young people look up to Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Jason Kidd, and others who have made mistakes but climbed out of them.

My heroes of today are very different that of my youth. My heroes are people who are in books and lived long ago. Abraham Lincoln was not perfect, but I can romanticize him in a manner that reduces his flaws. Martin Luther King Jr., was another man who I look up to, but he was not perfect either. Therefore, how I view hero worship is not about perfection, it is about perseverance. In my older years I look for those who have been able to hang in there despite wrong choices and tough times.

Kozak identifies two examples from literature that I think are excellent frameworks for understanding heroes. Horatio Alger wrote a book in 1867 entitled “Ragged Dick.” “It was the story of a poor shoeshine boy who, through hard work, honesty, and perseverance, pulled himself up to respectability and a middle-class life.” The protagonist of this book would be a great hero for us to have today.

The second example is from the book “Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan. This was a book written from a dream Bunyan had while in prison for being a non-conformist preacher. It is an allegory describing Christian’s travels through life. Kozak describes this book as a,” quest of a boy who travels through sin, despair, and most of the evils known to man. Thanks to good fortune and guidance, he makes it to salvation on the other side.”  Christian was trying to live a good live, and through faith in God and hard work he made it. This to me is heroic.

Today we have trouble seeing heroic behavior. Kevin Bacon is starring in a new TV program called “The Following.” It is about a serial killer who is developing a following, and has escaped from prison. Bacon was the agent that previously helped catch the killer and put him in prison. The plot was interesting, but we turned it off due to the graphic violence. My point is that Bacon played a flawed character who was in a violent circumstance, who was going to be the hero. I am sure he will pull himself out of his flaws, but we just could not handle the graphic portrayal of violence.

I am having a hard time with not becoming this old fogey who is looking back at my youth as the good old days. I know they weren’t the good old days because much of what we see today, was happening back then, just not observed because it was hidden. The fact is though our leaders and heroes seemed to have different standards than today. And as we learned from Lance Armstrong many of the heroes of today that get caught doing something they shouldn’t apologize not because they are sad they did something wrong, just that they got caught. Those are not the heroic values of Ragged Dick and Christian. So maybe the good old days were the good old days? The degeneration of our age really concerns me.

And that is my thought for the day!



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