Hollow heroes, Part 2

Hollow heroes, Part 2

In my last column, we began the discussion of “hollow heroes,” and I am fairly certain each of our readers could get a visual image of someone they know and love that seemed to fit the category. They go on with life, but it is a struggle because they come from such a hollow place in the heart and mind. I think of it as “simply going through the motions of life,” rather than living it abundantly. Perhaps you thought of your own life and wondered just how hollow you really are.

As I was working on these columns, I had a chance to communicate with a dear friend of over 40 years. We have often shared ideas, batted around philosophies, and acted as sounding boards for our various causes, writings and speaking engagements. Dr. John Carpenter of Atlanta has recently acquired his master’s degree in counseling and some other important teaching and training credentials. What I like most about John is that we can go long periods of time, living life, and pick up the phone, send an e-mail or visit and it is as if we were together the day before. We are often on the same wavelength, but there are times that he spurs me to thought – and perhaps in a direction I’ve never imagined. Such was the case of this conversation.

I knew that in his personal counseling business and in other work he has done, John has met and worked with some very interesting people. Never sharing a name or any information that would ever point me to a particular person, John mentioned some things he had witnessed on the subject of hollow heroes I have been thinking much about for several weeks.

John wrote, “I’ve been studying covert narcissists and am shocked at how much they look like the hollow heroes you have been writing about recently. You are correct. We have many out there walking the streets, forming relationships, and being and causing hurt and pain to so many good people. They are not always easy to spot.

“A true hero in life is all about you. A hollow hero is all about himself (or herself). Our society tends to conflate fame with character and image with action,” he added. “Hollow heroes (in every area of life) believe they are valuable because of their public image and not because of their inward character. A true hero does what they do because of who they are or their character.” 

John added that he has witnessed the hollow heroes doing whatever it is they do because it makes them look good to others. 

“The image is so important and, in some cases, becomes everything. … I believe,” John wrote, “that one act of saving a life at the risk of losing his own or a lifetime of morally consistent behavior, perhaps poor parents laboring to rear a family in hard times while working at a menial thankless job), can define a true hero.”

He reminded me that many years ago we learned together that reputation is what people think you are and character is what you really are (or have). Heroes act right even when the cameras are off and no one sees them. 

“Hollow heroes wait for the lights, cameras, and audiences,” said the wise counselor. “When hollow heroes are called upon to act selflessly, they have no inner core to draw from, and instead, draw from an inner pool of selfishness. Their image crumbles because it lacks true selflessness. The only acts of heroism we see them contribute are those that are needed to contribute to their published image.

“Hollow heroes are many times narcissists who need the esteem of others to feed their starving and damaged self-image.” 

May God help us to choose our heroes wisely and to point to character filled individuals for our children and grandchildren to admire.


Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.