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You Can’t Always Be the Hero

It’s natural to judge people as human beings. Even superheroes aren’t immune to others’ criticism. John Pavlotvitz, author of HOPE AND OTHER SUPERPOWERS, shares how you can’t always be the hero in everyone else’s eyes. 

It’s one of the less appealing qualities of human nature that we like to put people on pedestals just so we can watch them fall, that our appreciation can be a fickle and fair-weather friend, that with any success or acclaim there will invariably be fierce and often unwarranted backlash. Whether Tom Brady or Taylor Swift or Barack Obama, popularity invites dissenting opinions. This is true for celebrities, politicians, and real-life role models, but it’s true for Iron Men, Wonder Women, and Batgirls, too. A fictional superhero’s abrupt unwelcome is the time-tested heart of so many pivotal second acts: the opposition always comes when people move on behalf of justice and goodness. In the stories we love to watch and read, one way or another (whether through citizen outcry, government objection, or archenemy disdain), negativity always shows up to crash the positive party in progress. All heroes, no matter how selfless or charitable or brave, no matter what superlative worthy work they’ve accomplished, eventually find themselves face-to-face with people who don’t think they’re all that super. As they encounter those who misunderstand their intentions, criticize their methods, or see them as a threat, they become the villain. In that instant the tables are turned, and for the first time they bear the title of Bad Guy—and it doesn’t feel very good.

Criticism never does, does it? We almost universally crumble when it shows up on our doorsteps or calls us out publicly. No matter how self-assured we believe ourselves to be or how strong we make our exteriors appear, none of us are ever really prepared for the slap in the face of another’s dismissal or vitriol. It always stings. It always makes us second-guess the road we’re on or the work we’re doing or the way we’re doing it. That’s why comic books and superhero films can be educational (at least my twelve-year-old claims so and I’m totally fine with it). They help prepare us to endure (and even warmly welcome) pushback when it comes—and my friend, it always comes. Watching Spider-Man’s reputation trashed on the front page of the Daily Bugle or a bronze statue of Superman defaced in the heart of Metropolis is a necessary reminder that being the kind of person the world needs doesn’t mean the world will always universally agree that it needs you. In fact, on some days you’ll be deemed the villain by the very people you’re trying to take a bullet for, those you’re most intending to help. Many times the ones you expected to be most boisterously celebrating your passionate activism will be the ones most forcefully pushing back, and it will tear you up.

And that moment of people’s resistance against our best intentions and our most noble aspirations is one of the most critical for us would-be superhumans. It’s the time we find out who we are and what we’re made of. It is the proving ground where we discover whether or not the whys of our efforts are stronger than the sometimes terribly ugly responses they bring our way. When we move toward becoming the best version of ourselves, when we seek to fix what is broken in the world and to make it more humane, we find out if these endeavors are worth the disturbance they cause us and the sacrifices required of us. Our activism, our advocacy, and our giving a damn will invariably put us in harm’s way, and we’ll experience opposition from those who see our efforts as a threat. Touch people’s fears and rattle their place of privilege, and their responses will often be severe.

Pick up a copy of HOPE AND OTHER SUPERPOWERS by John Pavlovitz for more advice on how you can be your own superhero!


For more on Tips on Life & Love: The No Judgement Zone: A Prayer to Forgive Your Thoughts


Excerpted from Hope and Other Superpowers by John PavlovitzCopyright © 2018 by author. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Photo by ActionVance on Unsplash.


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