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I need a hero…

Yes, cue the music. Bonnie Tyler from the Footloose soundtrack…

Now that we have our background music, I will share with you all.

Last fall I heard an interview with Tom Hanks and something grabbed me that will not let go of me. Hanks had sat down for an interview about his new movie called Captain Phillips that tells the tale of a heroic captain named.. you guessed it, Phillips.

Here is the quote that got to me:

On whether Hanks thinks everyone has the ability to rise to the occasion:

Hanks says:  “Not everybody, no.  Some people are cowards…I think by and large a third of people are villains, a third are cowards, and a third are heroes.  Now, a villain and a coward can choose to be a hero, but they’ve got to make that choice.”


Three categories of people in the world: Hero, coward, or villain.

A coward or villain can choose to be a hero, but they have to choose.

Since I have heard this, I have been mulling this over and here are some of my thoughts. I would tend to agree with this assessment of people and the world. I am not ready to jump on the train of a 3rd in each of the categories – but the 3 categories, I think are good.

I believe it a very helpful tool to examine where you are right now in your life and how you are living/being. Let me break that down a bit more.


  1. A hero is not perfect, yet a hero keeps doing the right thing even when it is hard.

  2. A hero chooses to be courageous when facing fear.

  3. A hero endures


  1. A coward is someone that chooses the path of least resistance when hard times come.

  2. A coward shrinks back when facing fear.

  3. A coward quits


  1. A villain chooses to the wrong thing and wants to create heartache for others – usually out of their own hurt and pain.

  2. A villain creates fear in others so they can gain or maintain control

  3. A villain wants to break others so they give up in face of the fear they have helped create.

  4. Once you see where you are, you have to realize that you can make choices that help you move from one category to another category. It is worth saying here that I have only met a few purely evil people in my life – people that seem to be a villain to the core. And I have also met a lot of people that play the villain a lot of the time. Thus, I am not suggesting we call everyone villains, but I believe we all can at times play the villain or the coward.

  5. Biblical basis: The book of Proverbs lays out a close parallel to this paradigm. We have the wise, the foolish, and the evil/wicked laid out in Proverbs. There is a lot to unpack there, but for now, I will just say – it is there, check it out. The Bible also seems to have a general sense that to follow God is an act being heroic. If a hero is…1. not perfect, yet a hero keeps doing the right thing even when it is hard 2. chooses to be courageous when facing fear. 3. endures. Then that aligns with what it means to be a learner-guide (aka a disciple-leader). We are called not to shrink back in the face of fear (see Hebrews 10:35-39). We will have trouble in this world – that is to be expected (see John 16:33) – and we overcome because Jesus is our guide. There is no fear in love (see 1 John 4:18). For a guide who faced all of this head and on and wrote about it read the first 4 chapters of the book of Joshua. We are called to be a hero – not a coward or a villain.

  6. Like I said before, many times we find ourselves playing the role of the coward or the villain and that is not what we were created for. What deeply moves me in the simplicity of this layout is this: the coward is the one that chooses nothing. The coward gets blown by the wind. They are choosing neither to be a life bringer (hero) or even being a life-destroyer (villain). They are attempting to hang out in the middle. Hanging out in the middle never works.

I wish I had a nice bow to tie on this, but I am just thinking/typing out loud. I will say in the days ahead I am going to be aware of the cowardice that I find in my own heart. I am going to also be aware of the places that I want to play the villain. I want to be heroic. I want to show up in the places of fear, and say, “Yes, we are scared/fearful AND we will move ahead because we are called to move ahead. God is with us and for us so… (see all of Psalm 23 here).” I want to reject complacency and benign-ness. I will reject places where I want to get revenge and stir up things for the sake of being right or in control.

This paradigm can help us understand those around us, but the larger use is to assess ourselves and our intentions/motivations.

And here is the real rub: There are those around us that need us to be a hero – see the Biblical sense above – so that we can help them escape the dangers of playing the coward or the villain.

Strength and courage,


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