give one's life to


Senior Member
Joseph Campbell defined a hero as someone "who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”

I wonder how should "give one's life to" be properly understood in this context. Does it mean "lay down one's life for" or "die for"? And when it is coupled with the present tense, as is the case here, does it mean that the person has already died for a cause bigger than themselves? Or perhaps it means "devote everything one has, including one life, if need be, to a cause bigger than themselves?" The former interpretation amounts to something like this "a hero is someone who has died/dies for something bigger than themselves, while the latter interpretation would mean "a hero is someone who is willing or ready to die for something bigger than themselves".

I have this question because I tend to interpret "give one's to" as "die for", but this contradicts my belief that someone doesn't have to die to be a hero.

So what did Campbell really mean by his definition of a hero?
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  • Give one's life to is often interpreted as dying for a cause, but it doesn't always carry that meaning. Sometimes it simply means that the person has dedicated their life to a cause and gone above and beyond the call of duty. Without more context, it's impossible to know which of the interpretations Joseph Campbell meant to imply.