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Hero Syndrome

Ambitions can be a double-edged sword. You swing for the stars, not realizing your range of motion can have that swing coming back around for your head. Saturday morning cartoons and Sunday morning sermons taught me that people needed to be saved. They didn’t teach me what would happen if they didn’t want to be saved…

For reasons I can’t explain, it is apparent that I have become more sensitive with age. Solomon was not lying when he stated that increased knowledge increases sorrow[1]. Every situation I enter, the Law of Moses and the grace of Christ convict me[2]. You can’t ignore the will of God being abused, misused, and blatantly disobeyed. The more you read His word, the more similarities you see in mankind today.

Over 2,000 years later and humanity is still humanity. Men still rape and control women. The married commit adultery. The single commit fornication. The greedy abuse the meek. The powerful manipulate the poor. The orphan and the widow are abandoned. The love of money is the root of all evil. What has changed?

Yet, in my youth, I witnessed a rich man throw on a bat costume to save his city. I witnessed a kid from the Bronx step out in a spider costume and be the friendly-neighborhood vigilante. I saw mutated turtles rescue the helpless. I saw aliens come to Earth to save people. I heard about how God, Himself, came down as a man and gave His life for the sins of His people! There was nothing but sacrifice for the greater good of mankind. I wanted that for everyone. I wanted to be that for everyone.

It didn’t even have to be so great a feat. Sacrifices weren’t just in cartoons and the Bible. Police caught the bad people. The judges overturned foul rulings. The fire fighters rescued home after home. The teachers went above and beyond to educate. The churches fed the homeless. There were heroes everywhere.

Somewhere down the line, I wanted to be like them. It was a commandment from God: “Love thy neighbors as you love yourselves.[3]” The issue was not the desire, but the ambition that came with it.

It no longer became satisfying to save the people I loved. I had to save the people I hated. I couldn’t just take care of the widow and orphan, I had to be able to take care of the women and the children. I had to be “all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”[4]

The problem with this ambitious take on rescuing the lost is that I am not God. I do not have the capacity to save all men. I had stretched myself thin, and in stretching myself thin, I began a war with bitterness, anger, and depression. There’s a reason the Bible warns about being weary in well-doing[5]. I just didn’t know when I’d hit that low.

The war began with certain battles here and there. When I was in college, I confessed to some friends of mine that I was struggling with masturbation and pornography. While they understood that I wanted better for myself, it was hard for them to understand wanting to abandon such practices when they themselves reveled in it and even went so far as to fornicate. What had seemed big to me was insignificant in their eyes. Yet, we all prayed for another. Still, I couldn’t help wonder what else we, as a society, had desensitized to, and the further I studied, the less happy with mankind I became.

Then, there was the two times I witnessed “friends” and “family” cheer in helping their “loved one” get so completely drunk that they couldn’t function. The first time was in college. A young man took his younger brother to the hotel bar and bought him many drinks. Not much later, the younger brother was stumbling across the driveway while the older brother laughed and carried him on his way. Witnessing the glaze in that younger brother’s eyes and the lack of compassion in the older brother sickened me. It was a joke to him – a successful initiation. You are supposed to be your brother’s keeper. Didn’t we all read about the punishment of Cain?[6]

The same happened many years later at a lounge. I was dancing on the dance floor and witnessed two women head to the bar. One was sloppily drunk, and the other was very tipsy, but still buying them both shots. As she tried to get her friend to dance away the drunkenness, I watched as her friend lost all control and fell to the ground.

By then, I had learned about how many women had been sexually abused, trafficked, and raped. Yet, here I was, witnessing one woman purposefully, and ignorantly, place her “friend” in the position to be targeted. You’d think that the era of #MeToo would teach women to better handle themselves in environments where men and women target women, but there I was, witnessing one woman put two women at risk.

The climax of that war within me came at the start of the pandemic in 2019. I had suffered an ill-fitted president misrepresenting my God, refusing to protect His people from a virus spreading rapidly across the nation, and much of the nation followed him blindly against the testimonies of the sick and the warnings of the experts. I had come to hate humanity.

By this point in the war, heroes had been tainted by sin in my eyes. The comic heroes picked and chose who they committed violence acts against, and the degree that violence escalated to depended on the author. Some cops had shot enough unarmed, innocent people (especially Black people) to make me distrust them. Some judges had unequal sentencing depending on the race of the offender. Some fire fighters were arsonists. Some teachers were abusive, manipulative, sexual predators, and outright mean to their students. Some churches stole money and rallied behind false prophets and teachers. Humanity disgusted me.

I had also lengthened my own list of sins. I ventured into mentalities I didn’t know I could have. I desired things I didn’t know I could desire. I was miserable because of my shortcomings. God was exposing how much I still loved to feel responsible for His love of me. I wanted to be the good, obedient child.

From the start of my salvation, I set it in my heart to never sin against God. I declared that my life, and all the choices within it, would be surrendered to God. I chose to carry the weight of being an example to the world. It seemed natural for so long, but when bitterness started rising, I knew something was off.

I had taught myself to carry the weight of the world and try to save everyone from themselves. It didn’t occur to me that this task was impossible for me, and that it was impossible because God never called me to do that. Though I could do all things through Christ[7], doing things through Christ and doing things because you figure Christ would like it are two separate experiences.

I had to learn that I’m truly not meant to save everyone, nor can I. If God Himself won’t save everyone, then why would I defy Him and try to save them? There are people determined to experience the Lake of Fire and the second death[8]. Who am I that I can stop them? Despite what my upbringing sold me, I am not the hero of my story. The hero, in fact, is Jesus Christ.

Still, how can I watch all this suffering and not say anything, nor do anything? Being unable to help is not something I like to feel. I care for all of humanity. I hate that they suffer, even at the result of their own doing. I am desperate to help them, even against their wishes. Thus, I am the cause of my own misery.

No one tells you about how to respond when people don’t want you to save them, or even go as far as to hate you for trying. They don’t tell you about the resentment that rises up in you in response to these reactions. I’m not even a pastor, and I am weary. I have no flock, no mentees, no mentors, nor any dependents. I have amazing people who I love and care for. All that love and care didn’t, doesn’t, and will not stop them from living with lies, getting hurt, questioning and rebelling against God, and sinning. It didn’t stop myself, so why would I expect that from others?

They say that if you have little to no expectations, life will be easier for you. That ideology scares me, because I already don’t expect much from people, and still I am further disappointed. If I expect any less, I will not want to participate in life. Not that I’m suicidal, but rather recluse. My list of friends is small. I am terrified of further losing interest in mankind.

What happens when a hero doesn’t want to be a hero anymore? Does the desire ever come back? Will the world actually be worse of? Will God send a replacement like He did with Elijah and Elisha? I don’t want to miss out on any blessings by being replaced, so I know I must navigate through this disgust.

I will say that living life without the desire to be the hero is awkward for me. I feel less encouraged to encourage, though encouragement naturally spreads from me. I feel less involved, which has given me much time to myself. I can’t say that I like living this way. I pray we all get to the point to where we actually want to help each other rather than take advantage of each other. Still, as I wait for humanity to catch a clue, I will rest in knowing that the true hero of our story already has the victory. He’s just waiting for us to acknowledge it before He expresses it in full.

I love you from the bottom of my heart,

Dario Augustus


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