A martyr believes in something with a strength and passion and faith strong enough to endure persecution even to death. While I admire the self-lessness of heroes, I vote for conviction and faith.
I think one of the characteristics of a true hero (and martyr) is that he or she does not set out with that goal in mind - but something happens that naturally leads to a decision which results in heroism or martyrdom. When posed this question - it sounds like everyone is going to choose to live rather than die - but the fact is - if we had the choice to be heroes - we would be. I don't think this is something that can be chosen. I think it just happens.
I understand that there does exist today, religious, social or political fanatics who believe that martyrdom is the fasted way to ultimate honor. I think this notion is crazy. Instead of aspiring to emblaze my name in the hearts of the masses for eternity, I hope I am simply making decisions and taking actions today that always have the potential to be heroic. I suppose as a mother and teacher - the opportunity for me is greater than for some - so I hope I'm not wasting it.
Others have defined the terms very well so I won't bother to repeat them. However, I do think there is something a bit too extreme about martyrs - except in the case of suicide bombers of kamikaze pilots I am not too sure than many people actually opt to be a martyr - it just happens to them. I would much prefer to be a hero, and if, in the course of being a hero I die, then I would be happy to be a martyr - not that I would know much about it! Opting to be a martyr is just a bit too impulsive and reckless for me.
You are hearing a lot of "it depends on the cause". A hero would be great in the eyes of this world, I get that. The attention would be fun for awhile, but heroes have great responsibilities after the complete their great achievement. Often, in our societies today, their human nature keeps them from maintaining that status for very long. We have too great of expectations for them.
A martyr that dies for a worthy cause is a role that interests me. Of course, I would like to choose the moment, but then it might never happen for me. Many martyrs today die for causes that I do not believe are worthy even though I know they do. If I knew there was better place on the other side and courage supernaturally held me together, that would be my choice.
I'm not sure that I see much of a difference other than the fact that a martyr does stuff and then dies for their cause whereas a hero does not necessarily die for their cause.
If those are the two choices, I would rather be a hero. After all, I think that a hero and a martyr accomplish the same thing. They both stand as examples of people who do something extraordinary in pursuit of some ideal. They can inspire other people to reach for that ideal as well. So I don't see why anyone would be a martyr if given the choice -- they don't accomplish any more than heroes do and they die...
I have always understood a martyr to be a person who suffers persecution for a specific cause so because of this I feel that martyrs may be heroes themselves. The two really overlap. The problem with being a martyr is that the person gives up their life for the sake of that particular cause. A hero does not usually die in the end. So in this case, I suppose I would rather be a hero.
On a different note, it would also depend on what I was defending. If I were completely passionate about something and felt many souls were at sake, I may choose to be a martyr for that.
In many ways martyrs, or for the reasons we value them, are heroes, so I guess if I had to choose one, I would stick with the hero. Not only do I get some of the same status as a martyr, but I get the added side benefit of staying alive. Can't beat that with a stick.
That being said, there is something to be said about dying for a cause, about having your death mean something more than just announcing the end of life. It also seems like martyrs are treated better by history than heroes.
Of course it is rather selfish of me, but I'd rather be a hero than a martyr because I don't want to end up dead. There is a small chance that I could be a hero and then end up living a quiet life once people forgot about the heroic part.
Being willing to lay down your life for a cause is an impressive level of dedication, and certainly one that I'd like to have for the things I believe in, but if it comes down to a choice, again, I'd rather end up alive at the end of the day. I don't want to have people expecting heroic actions all the time, but I don't want to leave my family alone either.
Can't you put another question, please?
Martyr is a person who has lost his or her life in defending or protecting a cause. The basic requirements of a martyr starts with action to defend or protect the cause espoused. Wanting to give up your life is no way of doing this. Wanting to live and struggle is the way to do it. A person may loose his life in this process, and a true martyr acts in face of such possibility. But I am not very much in favour of any one wanting to die rather than live and struggle for a cause.
So I would basically try to be a hero. If in in the process I become a martyr, nothing can be done about it.