Steve Rogers

What Does Your Behavior Say About Who You Are?

Captain America The First AvengerBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Does our behavior at the worst of times say as much about us as our behavior at the best of times?

At the start of Captain America, Steve Rogers is a ninety-pound asthmatic who’s been turned away from serving in the US military five times, despite their need for soldiers to fight the Nazis.

No one can understand what Dr. Erskine is thinking when he invites Steve to be part of the group of men in the running to become the first in a new generation of “super soldiers” enhanced by the serum Dr. Erskine created. Steve can’t even keep up in any of the exercises or drills they’re put through.

With all the great soldiers in the group, Steve doesn’t understand why he’s the one chosen.

“The serum amplifies everything that is inside,” Dr. Erskine explains. “So, good becomes great. Bad becomes worse. This is why you were chosen.”

Erskine chose Steve because he stood up to bullies, he thought outside the box, and he was willing to sacrifice himself for others. The serum would magnify the good qualities inside Steve, as well as making him physically stronger. If Erskine had chosen the soldier who seemed the obvious choice, the bullying tendencies the man usually controlled would have been intensified.

The rough patches, long days, aches, and disappointments in our lives act like that serum. It can bring out the best in us, but it can also bring out the worst.

When I’m impatient after a long day, or when I’m grumpy because my back hurts, or I’m selfish because I’ve been working for 10 hours straight and I just want to be left alone, I like to think that’s not who I really am. I can easily blame the circumstances. They caused my bad behavior, almost as if they were injected into me from the outside. It wasn’t my fault.

But the truth is, those tendencies must have been there, in me, all along. My circumstances, no matter how sad or frustrating, didn’t create anything.

And what scares me is the thought that perhaps it’s only in those times when we’re tired, hungry, frightened, or stressed when our true selves show up. Our defenses are down, and the unpleasant circumstances serve to magnify what’s at our core and has been there all along.

Both good and bad.

If those qualities are always there, though, it means if we’re aware of our bad qualities, we can work against them when the times are happy. We can cultivate their opposites so that maybe, just maybe, the next time we face the serums of life, what comes out will be better than the time before.

When do you think our true selves show themselves best? When things are good or when things are bad?

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Do We Need to Be A Little More Old-Fashioned?

The Avengers' Captain America and Iron ManIf you woke up one day to find that 70 years had passed, would you be excited or would you mourn for lost friends and family and the way of life you’d known?

When we meet Steve Rogers again in The Avengers, he’s still struggling with this very thing. Back in 1942, a special serum turned him into Captain America, and in the middle of fighting a rogue group of Nazis known as Hydra, he accidentally ended up in suspended animation. He wakes up in the “present day.” The world has changed a lot since 1942.

Not surprisingly, Steve feels like he and his values are obsolete. He doesn’t understand Tony Stark’s cavalier attitude or circumvention of the rules, or Bruce Banner’s scientific mumbo jumbo, or any of the pop references the others make (except for one about flying monkeys—and he’s almost pathetically excited about finally “getting one”).

It doesn’t look like there’s much that can break up the gloom surrounding what should be a golden boy character. But on their way to the flying ship, Agent Coulson tells Steve that they’ve updated his Captain America costume.

“Aren’t the stars and stripes a little old fashioned?” Steve asks.

Agent Coulson looks him straight in the eyes. “With all that’s going on in the world, people might want a little old fashioned.”

Throughout the movie, Steve comes to realize that Coulson was right. People are starting to not only want a little old-fashioned, we’re starting to need it.

And it’s not about the evils of technology. Technology isn’t evil. It’s not about needing to reconnect with nature and unplug. It’s not about retro becoming the latest fashion trend or collecting records or bottle caps.

It’s about reviving some old-fashioned values. I suspect that, like me, a lot of people long for the return of some of the things we’ve lost.

I’m only 30, but when I was a child, stores in my town were closed on Sundays. Was it an inconvenience if you wanted to buy something? Yes. But didn’t we always manage to survive until Monday? And wasn’t that a small price to pay to give everyone a day of rest, a day focused on friends and family?

I miss the idea of a day of rest. And a 40-hour work week that gave you enough income to live off of. Not only live off of, but raise a family on.

I miss when a handshake meant something, people did what they promised, and you could leave your doors unlocked.

I miss teamwork. Days when it wasn’t about getting ahead as an individual by stepping on others, but rather about working together to make sure everyone achieved their goals. We didn’t feel the need to shout to be heard. We didn’t feel the need to sing our own praises because we knew that if we did a good job, someone else would sing them for us.

Those are the type of things that made the good old days good. Those are the things that are now old-fashioned, and those are the things I think we need to fight to get back.

I’m an optimist, but even I know that I can’t turn back time. I can’t change society to make stores close on Sundays again, and we can’t safely leave our doors unlocked even in small towns anymore.

Captain America couldn’t force Tony Stark or any of the others to accept his values either, but he chose to act on what he believed, and by the end of the movie, however subtly, it was his example they followed, even Stark. The man who “didn’t play well with others” worked as part of a team, and even risked sacrificing himself to save the world.

While I can’t change the world, I can change me. Like Captain America, I can still live by those old-fashioned values.

I can refuse to work seven days a week because my body and my relationships need that day of rest. My handshake and my word can still mean something. And I can support others and let my actions speak for themselves. I have control over me.

And maybe, just maybe, if enough of us change ourselves, the world will one day follow.

What old-fashioned value do you think needs to be revived? How are you helping to bring it back?

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