How Captain America teaches us to be our best selves
Hold to our beliefs and ideals can be very hard in everyday society. We are conditioned to adapt to survive, in many cases, by compromising the standards we set for ourselves. It can be even harder to trust or accept those who have faltered on their journey in learning to make the right choice. Captain America, aka Steve Rogers, has experienced this in his films in more ways than one. Yet, he never once stood back and let anyone walk all over him.
Ever since his first appearance in Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve Rogers was always one to stand up for those who couldn’t stand up for themselves. He never compromised how he felt to avoid confrontation. As he once stated, “I don’t like bullies, no matter where they’re from.” Even after being put on ice, his ideals never changed. As the world became even more challenging to live in, he remained like a tree, showing people that there are certain things about ourselves we don’t have to change.
In the Avengers, Steve is introduced to a complicated world with teammates that don’t see things as black and white as they used to. Following Phil Coulson’s death, Steve was there as a shoulder to cry on for Tony even though he was met with hostility. Steve was viewed as old fashioned, and even Coulson agreed that maybe that was what the world needed now. When he appeared in Germany to face Loki, the people rallied behind him. He represented the same thing Coulson said the world needed, someone to stand up to a bully.
The government Steve fought for always represented his ideals, and because of that, they had earned his trust. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was the first time that trust was put to the test, and Steve learned a hard lesson about how easily that trust can be manipulated. With SHIELD compromised by hydra, he felt he was betrayed by the people who had created him.
Compartmentalization was a modern idea that was far too ambiguous for the star-spangled Avenger. However, even after his partner, the Black Widow played him for a fool, he learned even the shadiest people deserve to be trusted and forgiven so long as their actions represent the goodness within their hearts. Steve also learned that he isn’t just a symbol of America. He’s a symbol of hope and goodness in the world, and while he abandoned the organization that betrayed him, he grew stronger in his love for what’s right.
“Compromise where you can. Where you can’t, don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right. Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, a tree, look them in the eye, and say ‘No, you move’.” Captain America was the biggest turning point Steve Rogers ever faced while wielding the shield in Captain America: Civil War. The world he knew, his home, was slowly dismantled following the death of his love, Peggy Carter. The Scarlet Witch used her powers in a way that led to the accidental deaths of innocents that culminated in the Sokovia Accords. A document that forces superpowered people to have to answer to the government. All the while, the hunt for Bucky leads Steve to the darkest truth the MCU ever faced, that Bucky killed Tony Stark’s parents.
As the film tests Steve’s ideals, we see him putting the stress of others before his own. With the Scarlet Witch reeling from her mistake, Steve shows up to remind her that it’s not just her fault. It’s his own. He teaches her that they must learn to deal with the fact that not everyone will be saved in this job, but it’s important to accept and forgive ourselves, so more lives aren’t lost in the future. Steve reminds Wanda of the hard truth that comes with accepting each other’s faults. We can’t always save everyone, but if we don’t learn to continue living with that knowledge, we become even more dangerous.
Steve even forgave Bucky, knowing that even though he was behind the actions of the lives he took, he wasn’t in control. He trusted his friend even after seeing what he did to the Starks, and that trust and desire to keep his last family together wound up tearing them apart. Steve made a mistake and broke Tony’s trust. It was a hard lesson for him to learn and a hard thing for the audience to see. By the end, Steve took himself and his mistake and went into hiding, abandoning the symbol that he had upheld for so long.
Avengers: Infinity War sees Cap with long hair and a beard. Doing good work from the shadows and abandoning all identifying features on his suit. By the time Thanos came calling there were no Avengers. Only friends he had in high places. The trust he earned from the Black Panther paid off for a while against the mad titan….until he snapped his fingers.
Avengers: Endgame had Steve lose half of the only family he had left. He failed even more than he did in Civil War, and he couldn’t even fail with his team as he promised Tony years ago. Five years passed, and the one thing Cap still couldn’t accept was defeat. He never doubted that things could be better, but he had no reason to believe it until Ant-Man offered a way back. Steve trusted his ragtag team of heroes to pull off their time heist and bring everyone back, but most of all, Tony trusted him again. In a way, Steve planted himself like a tree to a world telling him to move on, and he told them ‘No, you move’.”
So how exactly can Steve help the average person deal with forgiveness and trust with the people around them? To put it bluntly, it’s pretty easy. Captain America teaches us to be our best selves by being an ordinary person, at the end of the day. We all make mistakes, and those mistakes have consequences. But the power to forgive a person for them is stronger than it may seem. Natasha played Steve, but he forgave and trusted her at the end of the day, and it changed her life. She felt whole. By being our best selves, we can earn the trust of others and learn to trust even the people we forgive. You can’t judge a person on their worst mistakes, and trust is a powerful motivator in doing the right thing. In a way, trust is a lot like faith.
Steve once said he had faith in people, and he was lucky not to have been let down by them. While we all aren’t as fortunate to say the same, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have faith in the people around us. They may make mistakes or do things that will hurt us, but so long as we have the ability to forgive and never lose the chance to trust or be trusted, maybe we all can live a little more like Steve Rogers. As he said in Endgame, ‘the world is in our hands. It’s up to us, guys. And we’ve gotta do something with it.’ We may as well do what’s right.
Thank you guys for giving my post a read and thank you for being so understanding of my wonky scheduling this week! As a thank you I have a brand new episode of my podcast, The Next Panel with Nick and Jake! Also, make sure to give my Black Panther and Iron Man write-ups a read! Spread the word and follow me on my social media! Stay Safe, Stay Happy, and Stay Fresh!