Aristotle pointed out that we become virtuous by watching virtuous people.
The heroes of a culture have a huge impact on the actions of its people. It used to be that humanity’s heroes were god-humans and saints; people of great compassion, great virtue. That doesn’t always seem to be the case these days, and it is reflected in the unhappiness in our culture.
Our heroes these days
Who are our heroes these days? Spiderman, Batman, Miley Cyrus, Albert Einstein, Tom Brady, Andrew McCutchin. What parts of their stories do we witness? Cool web-slinging, cool bad-guy wrangling, fancy dancing, incredible smartness, superhuman strength and agility.
We witness the things that make good movies, good TV, and interesting blog posts. It makes the media companies lots of money, but often leaves out attributes that true heroes possess such as integrity, compassion, and sacrifice for a greater good.
We emulate our heroes
Everybody wants to be like his or her heroes, so it today’s world, the focus is on being cool, stylish, smart, strong, etc. And when we, as a society, lose focus on the virtues that bring true happiness, as we have, we kind of forget about them. We stop caring about the really important virtues like kindness, charity, and honesty.
That has a double consequence. First, it makes us unhappy. Second, it makes those who are still virtuous less happy as well, and it makes it harder for them to be virtuous. It is much easier to give after you have been given to. It is much easier to be kind when those you interact with are kind as well. The fewer virtuous people we are around, the harder it is to be virtuous ourselves.
The solution is simple
In order to make the world a more compassionate one, we don’t have to preach, try to change others, become famous, or change the world. We only have to change ourselves. And we can follow Aristotle’s little life hack to do so.
We turn it all around by choosing the right heroes, focusing on truly virtuous men and women, watching them. By making ourselves more virtuous, we develop deeper happiness, and we become those virtuous men and women that others can watch and learn from.
Who are some great heroes?
Well, one is Jesus Christ. He sacrificed his life because he loved humanity that much. However, many of us have spent our lives watching Jesus Christ, and after a while, his story loses its freshness, and we become desensitized to his greatness.
Here are some great stories with great, virtuous heroes. Note: we also need those great stories to give us a clear glimpse into the hero’s life.
- Les Miserables
- The Life of Gandhi
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- The Life of St Francis of Assisi
- Won’t You Be My Neighbor (Mister Rogers)
- Schindler’s List
The more we watch these great, compassionate heroes in action, the more we are inspired to be like them. The more challenges we see these heroes face, the clearer our framework for facing similar challenges and remaining virtuous. So learn everything you can about good, virtuous, compassionate people, and you will naturally come to be good, virtuous, and compassionate; attributes our society can really use these days.
Do you know of any other compassionate heroes or stories (movies, books, art) about compassionate heroes? Share them in a comment!