As her mother was dying, Anne supposedly told her, “Mother, you’re my hero.” To which the woman replied, “You need to…stop looking for heroes, Anne. Only the weak need heroes and heroes need those around them to remain weak. You’re not weak.”
I heard Harry Reeder, pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian in Birmingham, once say that we all need role models, but we should choose role models who are dead. We need to look up to people who have finished their lives well.
Given the first comment I made, I think he has a good point. We are all mortal. We have feet of clay, and we carry our treasure in earthen vessels. Even people with admirable qualities fail us. A person’s reputation for integrity must last to the end of his or her life.
As a child I idolized television and movie stars as well as baseball players. That’s pretty typical behavior. But as I grew, I realized that these were not the people I needed to emulate.
People who set themselves up as heroes often deserve the reputation for doing heroic things. Charles Lindbergh did many heroic things: flying solo across the Atlantic, charting routes across the Artic and Asia and helping launch commercial air travel. But he also embraced the policies of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany for a time, articulated anti-Semitic views and fathered seven children with three German women while married to Anne (who bore him six children).
People who seem larger than life often need to surround themselves with ‘yes’ people to keep reinforcing the illusion of their own greatness. If our identity is grounded in who we are in Christ, it will not be affected by every compliment or criticism and will not be dependent on the constant praise of others.
The Apostle Paul tells us: When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. I Corinthians 13:11, NIV