The Missing Hero

Friday, 19. March 2010

The thesis is that there are aspects of our lives that we never really share with others, possibly courageous and even heroic aspects, as we toil our way through the hand that destiny dealt us, making the best of who we are and the opportunities that come along. We aren’t in charge of anything and we actually know that, but within the limitations we do pretty well.

Think of the guy who left school at fifteen yet rose to a position of authority in the corporate world. Think my my CV client from the Kabili region of Algeria, a woman who fought her way to university in France and then ran away to the UK to avoid servitude. She started as a bookkeeper in Rainham, Essex and now project manages the installation of investment bank trading floors while living in SW3 with her Danish husband and two children.

Those are the big heroics, and there are countless smaller ones: people who overcome disabling illness and pain; people who fight their way past tragic childhoods. People who deal with stammers and dyslexia. People who know they aren’t that bright but work hard enough to do very well. people who give a lot to others, even though it costs them dearly in time and personal success. In fact the world is full of minor acts of heroism.

Yet, and here is my thesis: very few of us ever receive the acknowledgement, the thanks, the respect and in some sense the justification for being themselves that these marvellous but invisible achievements actually deserve.

So we all share a kind of debilitating hunger, to be known as we truly are, to be allowed to be that person, to be celebrated for our gifts and contributions. Perhaps because a competitive society where everyone is starving for recognition (and only the stars ever get it) – perhaps because this culture will not allow it.

However, as a minor gesture of revolution against loss of person-hood, I think we should all be doing something about this issue and telling those that we care about how very much we celebrate them just as they are. This would be so much better than coaching them on becoming better, so much kinder than giving unwanted advice that makes them feel incomplete as they stand now. And especially, when they are down, when things are bad for them, when they are enduring loss or grief, that particular time in their lives would be the best time of all to see them and let them know that you see them as whole, perfect, acceptable to you and, frankly, heroic.

Don’t fix anybody; find them marvellous instead. It’ll do a lot more good to both of you.

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