In a recent discussion with a friend, the word and concept of honor came up.
We were in complete agreement that it’s a shame honor is as rare as it is these days and that people all-too-often conduct themselves in dishonorable ways. And that’s not only with regard to how they view and treat others, but themselves as well.
The word honor has long been associated with high moral value and/or achievement, and it can be used as either a noun or verb. As a noun if means high respect, great esteem, and adherence to what is right or to a conventional standard of conduct. As a verb it refers to regarding someone with significant respect, fulfilling an obligation or keeping an agreement.
The term fits into a wide variety of formats, but it always denotes good behavior, revered recognition or exemplary accomplishment.
Students can graduate from college with honor and soldiers are buried with full military honors. People are honored for their performance with a team or company, and at retirement they’re honored for their service.
And the Bible tells us to honor our parents (Exodus 20:12) and other people above ourselves (Romans 12:10), and that to the only God goes honor and glory forever and ever (1 Timothy 1:17).
Years ago, many people considered honor in almost every move or decision they made. Back then, it was common for many people to be genuinely concerned about their relations with others, and the phrase, “a man’s word is his bond” truly meant something. Without honor, a man’s word is often close to – if not entirely – worthless, and I feel like that’s what you find in the current state of society.
And again, it’s not only about honoring others, but yourself. Nowadays, many people don’t hold themselves in high enough regard to follow that lead. In turn, they’re OK with doing and saying things based on selfish vanity rather than selfless, compassionate desires, and they’re fine with letting greed, laziness and “entitlement” be their primary motivators.
They’ll lie to your face without thinking twice about it, complain if they have to put the least bit of effort into a task or chore and they don’t care about another person’s opinions or feelings.
And they don’t understand the importance (or meaning) of “the golden rule.”
My friend pointed out that we’ve lost trust, largely because we’ve placed our honor aside. He mentioned how “reality TV” has made matters worse by making lying not only acceptable, but a way of life, and how shady business dealings are often perceived as success and shrewdness rather than corruption and exploitation.
Unfortunately, I think a lot of people view honor as being old fashioned, so it’s not cool. My friend said he was recently talking with a young girl about being honorable and keeping promises, and she said, “its 2019, people don’t think like that anymore.”
He corrected her and said, “I think like that, and I believe others do and more should.”
I believe my friend is correct when he says, “we need honor, we need duty and we need service,” and that such ideals should be taught in school.
It all comes down to what’s in a person’s heart.
In about 1800, English poet and philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge said, “Our own heart, and not other men’s opinion, form our true honor.”
In other words, honor stems from a sincere desire to be honorable, not superficial actions designed to create a favorable (albeit false) appearance.
In the same time period, German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said, “Honor has not to be won; it must only not be lost.”
I fear it’s being lost.
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald.