We Need Not
Be a Hero

A group of people put their hands together.
Lessons from Artisans of Peace

On February 15, my colleague Billy Price and I spent 90 minutes on a Zoom call with our current cohort of Artisans of Peace–our second gathering with leaders representing seven nations. We’ve heard over and over in our conversations that peacebuilders and change-makers long for safe, non-performative spaces where they can speak honestly and candidly about their vocation, and gain greater clarity and resilience in all areas of life. Our goal in these first few virtual sessions is to build such a space and to deepen the currency of trust that will help us do deeper work later in the program. 

Our recent conversation focused on the question, in what ways do you feel you need to be a hero? 

The change-making work that these artisans of peace do tends to draw in people who long for a better world and feel the pain of a world deeply broken. We live in a narrative that tells us that such world-healing work is heroic. When peacebuilders accept that hero narrative, they place unrealistic responsibilities upon themselves to resolve the world’s problems. I see this pattern in my own life. Heroic expectations tell me I’m never quite good enough, leading me to a sense of isolation and, at worst, feelings of futility and burnout.

Our conversation this week reminded me I’m not alone. 

The hero narrative is powerful. It is reinforced by a system that demands we prove our impact, gain shiny accolades, and secure the funding that makes our work and lives possible. We heard and felt how real these challenges are–both the expectations we place on ourselves and those placed on us by others. 

As we closed the session, I could feel a common question arising: why do we place such high expectations on ourselves? In opening ourselves to honest conversation, we felt together that insisting on our individualism profoundly undermines us. We burden ourselves with unnecessary responsibility, ignoring the broader, interdependent communities that nourish us. 

We felt interdependence in our gathering: that we are all part of something bigger, that we are not at all alone. 

We began our session with these words from Barbara Holmes: 

It is alright to stop striving. 
It is alright to grieve losses and then let go. 
It is alright to withdraw from ordinary pursuits for a while.
It is alright to get out of the driver’s seat and sit in the back for a while. 

It is my hope that Artisans of Peace and the broader unRival Network can be such a place to stop, grieve, withdraw, and rest and to remember that we need not be a hero. Being human is quite enough. 

This blog post was originally featured as an UnRivalrous Perspective in our biweekly newsletter, The Frame. Click here to subscribe.

Remember that we need not be a hero. Being human is quite enough.

Please consider these other blog posts about the Artisans of Peace program:

Want to learn more about how unRival Network and the Artisans of Peace program are disrupting rivalry and advancing the cause of justice and peace? Click here to access our free resource, Peace is Possible.

Hold onto hope with us.


When we resist rivalry together, there is hope for peace.

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