Finding Your Inner Hero Through Courage and Vulnerability

Inner hero
Finding Your Inner Hero

For our third men’s retreat, we invited author John Sowers (The Heroic Path: In Search of the Masculine Heart) to speak. We appropriately called our Big Bear, CA excursion The Heroic Weekend. The first night, we did a scavenger hunt and teams got extra points by dressing in a hero costume. The idea was we wanted guys to experience heroism on the outside through costume and competition. But, by the end of the retreat, we wanted every guy to find his inner hero.

Men's retreat

photo by Brian Cahill

The week beforehand I was compelled to pick up Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection. Vulnerability and authenticity are fundamental to the work we do through LA Men’s Group, so I turned to a current thought leader.

For the most part, we don’t really look at vulnerability as an essential masculine trait (this should change btw). But, we do think of courage as a sign of manliness.

Maybe you’re like me. When I think of courage, I envision a soldier running into battle. I think of a mom picking up a vehicle because her child is caught underneath. I consider the firefighter plunging into a flame engulfed home to rescue a dog.

Brene points out this is heroism.

…today, courage is more synonymous with being heroic. Heroics is important and we certainly need heroes, but I think we’ve lost touch with the idea that speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we’re feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage.”

Courage is composed of “cour” which means heart and the suffix “-age” which means to act with. To act with heart means you’ve made an emotional investment into something; you’re exposing yourself through heart, which makes us vulnerable.

For many guys, we express our heart through action. It might be something grand like a heroic act, or it might look like working long hours to provide for our loved ones. Courage in action might also be as simple as helping a friend move or volunteering. Sometimes, though, the heart is hidden in action. We’re more comfortable with the exterior hero. We grew up playing with ACTION heroes. These characters never were emotionally vulnerable.

To express our inner hero, though, we need to share our heart with words. Your inner hero comes through emotional vulnerability. Brene claims “courage originally meant ‘to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.'” As men, we’ve lost this art.

Something changed on the last night of the retreat. Around a campfire, men who embodied the hero in every sense on the outside, stood up and became heroes in a new way. Physically strong men stood up and shared their vulnerabilities, their triumphs and heartaches in their lives. I’ve never seen anything like it.

“Something’s changed,” James said the next day. “Can you see it? It’s in their eyes. They’ve become new men.”

For many men at the retreat, this was true. We could see heroism on the outside at the beginning of the weekend. But at the end, a new hero emerged from within. This kind of man is powerful. This kind of man changes the world.

A man who knows his inner hero is never alone. He’s got an arsenal of other super heroes at his back. Shame lost it’s battle that weekend.

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