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Unsung Hero Definition

Updated on August 26, 2014

The Hero

It's a bird!, it's a plane!, no, it's Mr. Hero!. Able to look directly into danger's eye and by one sweep of the hand vanquish it forever!.

Whenever you hear the word "Hero" we have a sense of awe of someone who gives their life freely to save others, who face danger or impossible odds. We begin to admire and consciously reflect on our own abilities and without knowing say things like "no, not me" or "hope I never face such things". We rely on heroes to fill a void where we dare not tread.

For many of us the image of heroes is the soldier who died on the battlefield, the police officer who defended and saves us from gangsters and the firemen who rush into flaming buildings. These we give hero awards.

These iconic types are who we have come to expect, give respect and recognize as heroes; and they do deserve the accolades for their unselfish actions. They receive publicity and admiration and in some cases dead or alive endorsements from commercial and political organizations. Just type the word heroes in any search box and see all the hits reflecting the character of this persona.

The Hero meaning.

A standard hero definition is as follows: A hero (masculine) or heroine (feminine) refers to characters who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self-sacrifice including for some greater good of all humanity. - Wikipedia.

Based on that definition, it would seem those who act out the scene of facing danger are heroes and the backdrop is both dramatic and intense. But I wanted to know is it really necessary to fall in this extreme category to be a hero. The hero self- sacrifices without any immediate reflection of the consequences. In most cases, they leap before looking, and there is a high mortality rate associated with this type of action.


Hero Minded

Does the hero have a higher sense of duty, a single mindset and are they more endowed with a higher spiritual, humanitarian sense and physical abilities. What is their psychological make up and are they born with a special gene or does the environment, media shape them and can it be learnt and passed from generation to generation. Are we all heroes when born and as we age; the daily regiment diminishes our ability or conviction to do heroic deeds. Which kid, boy or girl did not pretend to save the day either by beating up the bad guys or saving a life while pretending to play.

Hollywood, Bollywood or any major movie network around the world seems only to portray heroes to be rough, tough, insensitive, physical, full of character and charisma. If they can't act, they certainly will look good or at least have bulging muscles. These images set the precedent for what a hero is from kindergarten to adulthood. One has to admit if you are going to be a hero, then having these attributes do go a long way in being successful in the face of danger. And although the movies are dramatic and take an artistic license (meaning they lie); it does give the couch potato motivation to at least start to pretend they are heroes, even if it's only in daydreaming. And if the movies do this, then what realities bring the hero out of us and does it take a do or die attitude, blinding us in making often times personal fatal decisions. Do we think of what we may lose or gain in committing to a heroic deed.

Going back to the standard definition of being a hero; first, they "face danger and adversity". All armed forces, meaning those who legally carry weapons and fight or defend for a cause. Simple enough, these would include soldiers, police officers, and security personnel. These individuals train for hours to face danger and operate under extreme stressful conditions, and yet on every battlefield foreign or domestic we have those we recruit, train, honor and pay to fight; run or hide away from their sworn duty. Here we see having to face with the realities of your vocation can stress us to the point where we are non-functional despite all the support and preparation.

Courage, Character and Commitment
Courage, Character and Commitment

Face to Face

Has modern tactics, weapons and training reduced the ability of fighting men and women to face danger directly. Battles were once fought on open fields, face to face, where it was honorable and your duty to look at your enemy directly while firing, fighting and dying in front of their boots. Of course, this was due mainly to the technology of the time. Today, we look to outsmart our enemies behind walls and any other way so that we don't face them directly.

What's the point?. I believe the true hero needs a good strong backbone which is not necessarily measured by physical strength but more by character and morals. It's only when we face any form of fear that we build that character, like a muscle, the more developed, the more diverse, the more able to deal with the stress and weight of adversities.

The next attribute is "from a position of weakness". This I would think to include persons who, not having a natural inclination for crises find it in themselves to face the challenge before them. Persons such as the weakling standing up to the bully, or someone who is timid, reserved in nature and somehow finds the inner strength to rush to the aid of others; pulling someone from a burning vehicle. Generally though, in most cases, the instinct is to avoid, hide or run from the conflict and even to a point resign ourselves to the fate of the circumstances. Being the hero, requires you to think before acting even though it's from an instinctive and adrenaline status. As fear sets in, the mind of most individuals becomes paralyzed, affecting the response to overcome fear.

Both these types of heroic acts require courage, self sacrifice and the inner spirit to face the danger.

The last description made me pause and to think; a hero as someone doing "some greater good for humanity". Some greater good I think could be misleading as if those who died on a battlefield were somehow always fighting for what we would consider the 'right thing'. For instance the crusades was considered by many a righteous religious wars, but in reality the Roman church was using this facade to promote their own agenda. The truth is we define what is for the greater good in most cases. For now we will define the greater good to include justice, peace, humanity and basic rights of development.

Respect, Recognition, Remembrance
Respect, Recognition, Remembrance


So what do we do once we acknowledge the hero. Generally, we build monuments to them. Sometimes, as a single work of art or by listing the individual's name as a form of personal recognition, especially for family members who bear the lost. Monuments such as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial-USA; the Canadian war memorials-Canada; the Cornerstone of Peace Memorial- Japan and many others around the world. Recognition of heroes has been around since early civilization discovered tools, language, paint and the need to record history. Just think of the guy standing up to a dinosaur, easily a hero. Today, individuals are afraid of cats, etc. (check the survey on this kind of fear).

So the hero has to be courageous, have the odds against them and do it for the greater humanity and in most cases are trained for such actions and challenges.

Unsung Heroes

Then there are those who never trained or signed on to be heroes, but are, in my opinion. They receive little or no recognition even though their battle is daily and although they may not lose their physical life; they certainly lose something especially as their humanity is gradually disintegrating as they fight an uphill battle and a constant enemy of distractions; often being betrayed by the very support structure that they represent and build with their efforts. These are unsung heroes. So what is the unsung hero definition.

People within the medical, social work and education fields like nurses, support workers and teachers. This can be extended to include any vocation where pay, reward, recognition never matches their time and efforts. You say these are not heroes, but they qualify as defined by the definition.

It takes courage. Nurses, social workers and teachers face dangers every day like deadly viruses, mentally ill patients and violent students, etc. They have no immediate means of defending themselves and they generally don't look to kill someone. It takes more courage to stand in the face of danger and not defend yourself.

Self sacrifice is what they live for. Without this characteristic they can't perform their jobs, sacrificing daily to make the life of others better.

The greater good is obvious. Even though they face the bureaucracy, the paperwork, insurance policies and meaningless laws; they still perform without running away knowing that there will be very few victories and the stress, difficulties and load will only increase.

They operate from a point of weakness. Just think of the many incidents you hear through the media, the life and death decisions made based solely on medical coverage and policies; or having to decide where to spend their efforts due to lack of resources or funds. Let's face it, there is no romantic drama for these professions, so the mainstream media pay little or no mind to the daily heroic deeds performed by these individuals.


Ultimately, some do give their life. The death of nurses as well as social workers occur every so often having died while helping those in need, either by the patient virus or violently killed by the patient respectively. Nurses exposed to the virus Ebola have died in recent times and social workers are constantly being murdered by their clients.

Then there are teachers who not only are the front line against poverty, social issues and lawlessness but also children who are subjected to a life of despair, violences and abandonment. Teachers' self sacrifice their time and efforts with little reward and they face danger, especially at the high school levels. Many teachers have been victims or killed not only by their students but also parents.

Other unsung heroes like whistleblowers. Those who fight and expose big corporation failures, especially as they relate to peoples health and basic rights. Today, it's common to read or hear of hazardous chemicals being dumped near housing sub-divisions and invasion, removal of basic human rights by political, business organizations.


Heroes are everywhere.

Unfortunately, we give lasting recognition to those who perform a one time sacrifice or service more than to those who do heroic deeds daily and for a life time. I don't think there is any real monument to these everyday heroes, even though once in a while there is a short news clip that disappears as soon its aired or more recently we hold competitions to give an award to one of the many who is outstanding in their vocation.

So what would a monument be like to the unsung heroes of our societies. To those who carry and nurture the human being on a daily quest, who bear society's weight without a voice from politicians or business leaders and have no meaningful recognition for their sacrifices. Now I am not advocating a statue of every unsung hero with his or her name enblaze in another monolithic monument. Surely, we can find a way to recognize their heroism on a daily basis that gives us a true value of these individuals to the point we all want to emulate them. Today, with social media in everyday life we can make known the works and impact of these individuals. And with technology, forms of monuments can be erected to recognize, remember, and respect those who are the true foundation and life blood of our societies, from the nurses, teachers and support workers. They all contribute and truly define what makes us human. After all; all traditional heroes must have had someone to influence them for self sacrifice. To build in them courage and character.

You or your friend could be the next hero in peoples lives as long as we live for unselfishness, do the honorable thing and put others first before any material thing or corporation. Whether a man or woman, being a hero will before you know it become natural in our daily and future lives.

Consider the following and be inspired !

My Hero

© 2014 Kirk Wong


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