"A hero is a man who does what he can." -Romaine Rolland
What is a hero? We know one when we see one.
A hero takes on responsibility willingly instead of deflecting it to others.
A hero acts not because of his appointed position but because he or she is put in a position that requires action.
A hero makes a choice to do something without the obligation to do so.
A hero does the right thing, even if it is not the popular thing.
I'd like to argue that being a hero is a choice, one that everyone can make not only for others but for themselves— and it starts with responsibility. Take three examples of real life heroes who saved children's lives.
A teenage boy riding a bike with friends. A teenage boy shopping at Target. A female street vendor. None of them had obligation or authority to act. Nobody would have punished them if they didn't.
Each chose to take responsibility on their own authority and that's what makes them heroes.
We all have this choice. And just like you can choose to be a hero for someone else, you can choose to be a hero for yourself. Not because it’s fair, not because you have to. Because it’s what’s required. Accepting responsibility for your problems (and even for the world's problems) is the first step to improving them.
There Is No Power Without Responsibility
We've all heard "with great power comes great responsibility" famously quoted by Uncle Ben from the movie Spiderman.
The more important side of the story is that there is no power without responsibility.
Spiderman could have decided to give up on saving the day because it was too hard and not his job. No more responsibility, no more power, just like that. But he chose responsibility and therefore he chose to be powerful. In fact, the amount of power you can acquire is dependant on the amount of responsibility you're willing to accept.
Empowerment Vs Disempowerment
Power and responsibility are linked. When you say that someone has no responsibility over something, you're also telling them that they have no power. That's not empowerment, but disempowerment.
The very definition of empowerment is to give someone authority and power to do something.
"authority or power given to someone to do something"
"to deprive of power, authority, or influence : make weak, ineffectual, or unimportant"
There's a lot of disempowerment disguised as empowerment these days. But when it comes to personal safety, we can't afford to mess this up.
Responsibility is power.
You're never responsible for someone else deciding to harm you, their actions are not in your power. You're only responsible, if you'd like to be, for what is in your power. And the things that are within your power are also the things that have the most influence over your safety.
That's good news, not bad. It means you can do something about it all, and that's the essence of empowerment. Being responsible for your own actions is what gives you the power to become a super hero to yourself and others.
Those three heroes who saved those kids lives, it wasn't their fault that the kids were being attacked. They weren't to blame for the situation, but they decided to take responsibility for helping anyways. They took power into their own hands so to speak.
The fact that we live in a dangerous world with dangerous people is not your fault— but if you want to protect yourself and your family from them, it is your responsibility to do so. It can only be.
Being Your Own Hero
"A hero is a man who does what he can"
To be your own hero, your own security guard, your own protector— which you can do better than anyone in the world— simply ask yourself "what can I do?"
What is in my power to change? What can I control?
Could you be more aware of your surroundings when walking in public?
Could you park in safer areas?
Could you better avoid areas that you know to be dangerous, even if it takes a bit more time?
Could you walk your kids to school?
Could you change the people you hang out with, if those people continuously put you in dangerous situations?
Could you learn more about the crimes in your area and the strategies predators use?
Could you be more assertive when people try to pressure you into something you don't want to do?
Could you leave an abusive relationship?
Every one of us could improve on different aspects listed here.
At a certain point it stops being about words and it becomes only about what has the power to actually help someone. If we applaud men and women for stepping up and taking responsibility to protect the lives and safety of strangers, we should have the same attitude toward the act of stepping up to take responsibility for one's own safety. One cannot be heroic while the other is immoral.
Choose responsibility. Choose power. Not because it's fair— but because it's what's required to be safe in the world.
Written by Gemma Sheehan, founder of
Girls Who Fight.
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