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The real meaning of honour.

Updated on February 14, 2013

I really didn't want to raise this subject matter as I believe I already know the disheartening answer but for some reason, after I had put it in my notebook ages ago for future reference, it kept resurfacing from time to time, rather surprisingly, in my age-impaired memory.

I guess it wanted to be aired and was not going to let me off the hook.

Is honour dead ... or just mortally wounded?

I suppose I should clarify just what I mean by honour. Sadly, its only meaning for many people today is 'glory' or 'fame'. It is a word beloved by video game makers and militarists. Soldiers are 'honoured' as heroes and they deserve that accolade as they return from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have no issue with that definition for them.

But honour is not just limited to the brave few who put their life on the line and repeatedly face their fears in combat. And it is most certainly not just for the army dreamers, the wanna-be heroes playing their video games in safety. Honour is for everybody.

Modern warriors worthy of honour.
Modern warriors worthy of honour. | Source
Old soldiers are still deserving of honour.
Old soldiers are still deserving of honour. | Source
Honour demands honesty ...
Honour demands honesty ... | Source
One way of putting 'integrity'.
One way of putting 'integrity'. | Source

The other meaning of honour.

The other meaning of honour is personal integrity, an allegiance to moral principles, and, whilst I am aware this may sound somewhat old-fashioned, maybe even pompous in today's world, this does not mean such attributes are not needed.

Living in an age where for many the unwritten rule is 'do unto others before they do unto you', (and I don't mean that in a good way), it is more important than ever to have some sort of code of integrity. It translates as a respect for other people and it is not without payback, self-respect and the respect of others.

Once people realise that you have integrity, that you can be trusted with everything, whether it be worldly goods or confidences, you gain respect and this is a hard-won commodity in such times.

The moral high ground can be an uncomfortable place.

Of course, there will be those who sneer at your stance, who will think you are hopelessly weak and out of touch with modern times when you point out to the cashier that they have given you too much change.

These are the people who think you should get yours before anyone else gets any, the people to whom it would never occur to pay back borrowed money, the ones who would steal from pensioners on the breadline to buy a new mobile phone or flat screen TV. I only wish I were joking.

A question of awareness.

As with so many desirable personal attributes it is a question of awareness. Not all of us have a natural sense of honour, most of us have to work hard at maintaining integrity and that takes an awareness of when we are failing.

I have known few naturally honourable people in my lifetime but those few have always had my total respect and admiration. The difference between the naturally honourable and the rest of us is that this integrity seems to be hard-wired into their very genome. Where that comes from is anybody's guess. Is it luck or a long line of honourable ancestors?

For the rest of us it takes constant vigilance of one's motives but surely honour, or integrity if you prefer, is a quality that is well worth such effort. It is not just do-gooding or going to church or giving to charity, it is simply a case of 'do as you would be done by'. How hard can that be?

Recognising when you are falling short.

Despite thinking that I don't really need to spell it out, l will. If you feel guilty doing something, then it is usually dishonourable. If it makes you uncomfortable, don't do it. If someone else is being done down or disadvantaged by your actions, cease what you are doing, take another way.

It is that easy. I am one of those people that believe that inside most people there is a truly good human being buried under all the rubbish learned through life.

As for the others, the truly bad, there may be little hope. We can only suppose that their genome is defective or their life conditioning has badly warped them through no fault of their own. All we can do is follow the path of integrity and hope that we set a good example.

I am interested in your thoughts on honour.

Do you believe honour/integrity has any place in modern society?

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    • Angie Jardine profile imageAUTHOR

      Angie Jardine 

      8 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Many thanks for such an insightful comment Peter ... it's nice to 'see' you here.

      I'm sure you are right about living our own lives as well as we can. If we start with No 1 perhaps it will encourage others to emulate us.

      We can but try ...

    • Peter Geekie profile image

      Peter Geekie 

      8 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Angie,

      Thank you very much for an extremely well written piece.

      Honour or increasing lack of honour is present in this modern world. Add to that a lack of respect and we are on a slippery slope.

      All we can do is to live our life as we feel is correct and compassionate.

      Kind regards Peter

    • Angie Jardine profile imageAUTHOR

      Angie Jardine 

      8 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Absolutely, msorensson ... it just takes working at until it becomes second nature.

      Sadly there are an awful lot of us out there who don't even recognise the need for it never mind working at it when we realise we're missing the mark.

      Many thanks for taking the time to comment.

    • msorensson profile image


      8 years ago

      Indeed it exists. I agree with this "Not all of us have a natural sense of honour, most of us have to work hard at maintaining integrity and that takes an awareness of when we are failing." Yet it is there and we can summon it at will until there is no more a question when faced with any decision.

    • Angie Jardine profile imageAUTHOR

      Angie Jardine 

      8 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Hi Bobbi ... thanks for pitching up to comment on this hub.

      I agree, it feels as if honour is a quality fewer and fewer human beings exhibit nowadays and I just felt I had to put fingers to keyboard to moan about the fact. I do hope I'm wrong ...

    • BobbiRant profile image


      8 years ago from New York

      Morality and honor cannot be legislated or assigned. It all depends on the individual who makes a conscience decision to be honorable. It just seems less and less are doing so these days. More's the pity. Great hub topic.

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 

      8 years ago from TEXAS

      GMTA. Concern for the direction things are headed is a mutual one. Thank you for your lovely reply, Angie!

    • Angie Jardine profile imageAUTHOR

      Angie Jardine 

      8 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Nellianna ... this is one of the most lucid and best written comments I have ever read. In fact you have put what I was trying to say much better!

      What you have outlined is exactly what I see in today's society and I find it depressing in the extreme as I too have lived with the original version of a decent life. That is not to say that it was perfect, there were unscrupulous people then too ... but they were the one-offs, they were not the norm ... and their acts were not applauded and admired.

      Of course, there are still decent people about, many many of them. And many of them are the youth that has not slavishly followed those of their peers who strive so hard to be an individual that they become a byword for unprincipled behaviour. I do find that one of the biggest bores of the modern day ... the utter egotism, the conceit, that asserts 'I must be different'. Why?

      As you have said they conform in their non-conformity (this is a phrase that has always stuck in my mind - especially when I worked in the art world!) which makes them boringly conformist. It's sort of, 'I am young therefore I must be radical/anarchic/outrageous' and that leads them into dishonourable behaviour in order to make an impact.

      Hmm, I think I may have strayed from the point there ... I hope you get my drift.

      Anyhoo, m'dear, thank you so much for taking time out to write on this subject ...

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 

      8 years ago from TEXAS

      There's a word that comes to mind, which is a feature of society I've found disappearing at an alarming rate during my lifetime, which - everyone knows by now - is lengthy. That word is plain, too: DECENCY. It's the expression of integrity and honor toward others, I suppose. In my childhood, it seemed a "given". Maybe that was just because I WAS a child, but it seemed to be "normal" then and for years to follow. But somewhere along the line, it seemed to begin to deteriorate. People who had always been able to leave their doors and cars unlocked - even for long periods of absence, found they were no longer able to. Kids who had been free to play outside and walk to school unaccompanied (and unarmed) began to be protected - or else. Then they began to attack each other! And so on. What's happened?

      Well, I am sort of sad to mention one difference which has occurred: parents are no longer raising their children. They're being raised by strangers - and by each other. They have no idea what the word decency as I recall it even means. In fact, my computer definition makes it sound like some horrid conformity which would surely undermine personal choice and freedom - anathema, for sure. The decency I remember came from having good examples on a daily basis - at home - and a willingness to be a - well, decent person in one's treatment of others. Having respect, showing good will because it WAS 'in there' like the tomatoes in the spaghetti sauce. Not a veneer, but a basis. It needn't have anything to do with religious ideas. It's more about personal ideals.

      Without those, a society becomes estranged to ideas such as honor. Real honor must come from a real commitment to honorable behavior. We've become so scared of having our behavior controlled that we've succumbed to a subtle control of misbehavior and all that involves. It's similar to the movement to be 'non-conformist' which led to a conformity to non-conformity during the 60s.

      As you assert - honor is not just the glorious heroism of saints and soldiers. It is something each and every person displays - or not - in every moment of every day as we move among our peers and add our influence to the betterment of everyday life,- or not. A society is not a 'mass' - it's a collection of individuals whose character shows.

      I'm glad you decided to write this, Angie. Excellent article!

    • Angie Jardine profile imageAUTHOR

      Angie Jardine 

      8 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Hi Feline, it's interesting how many people have said the same thing.

      This, I think, must point to the fact that people are worried that there is very little honour about these days. That is certainly how it looks to me anyway.

      Nice to see you here ... thanks for commenting.

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 

      8 years ago

      It's like you took the words right out of my mouth! This is a subject I've been pondering more and more of late - and I truly believe there's no respect without honour.

    • Angie Jardine profile imageAUTHOR

      Angie Jardine 

      8 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Yep, WOL ... this is a seriously pertinent point.

      It's all down to the shallow, celebrity-obsessed culture we live in today. Sportsmen are vastly overpaid and worshipped for being able to play with balls of various sizes, and anyone who can cake on enough slap, starve into a glittery frock and warble a tune is emulated (and that's only the blokes!)

      Sorry, I just cannot be serious about these Z-list people whose self-belief is so total it is making our youth into self-obsessed, wealth-obsessed dummies. *Glum*

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Agree (of course) with all you say here, Angie.

      Slightly off topic, but in the vein of the misappropriation of terms, I abhor the way that atributes that distinguish us from one another in arenas of genuine and extreme personal risk are used so easily, and inappropriately in areas more to do with entertainment. And of course, money.

      In particular, sport. As an example, today Michael Clark, captain of the Australian cricket team, (and paid a million bucks year for his 'trouble') is being hailed a 'hero', because he scored 329 runs in a test match against India. His 'bravery', 'courage', 'sheer guts under pressure'and 'inspirational leadership from the front' make him worthy of these, the highest accolades.


      These are attributes that ought not to be so casually debased.

      Recently Australia produced, in the theatre of war, a real hero. A young man who was awarded for his bravery and courage under fire, the extremely rare distinction of the Victoria Cross. By the Queen.

      I abhor war, but I admire and respect the men and women who have the misfortune to be in the armed forces (learning a trade often..)when war breaks out, and who shoulder their suddenly much more onerous and dangerous responsibilities with - honour and integrity.

      Recently a bronze lifesize statue commemorating an "Australian hero of our times" was unveiled outside a major public venue in Melbourne. Was it the VC winner? Don't be stupid. It was Shane Warne, famous, revered, immortalised in bronze for his ability to spin a leather ball, in a game.

      Seriously, I ask you.

    • Angie Jardine profile imageAUTHOR

      Angie Jardine 

      8 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Many thanks for your comment, geordmc ... I agree wholeheartedly with your point that people of honour would not be able to function in politics.

      I suspect that those politicians known 'fondly' as 'mavericks' in the UK are the remnants of once honourable politicians who have been so abused by their peers that they are totally burnt out with the effort of trying to maintain some sort of integrity in the face of it all. Why anyone would want to try to make some sort of honest difference in the face of all the underhand dealing is beyond me ... they must be super-heroes in disguise.

    • Angie Jardine profile imageAUTHOR

      Angie Jardine 

      8 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Hi Pcunix ... I would be interested to read what you have to say about honour so I look forward to your hub on it.

      I have less interest in corporate honour such as Google's as I think that is an oxymoron. Honour in business died out around WW1. No-one trusts business or corporations anymore ... that they are without honour is now a given.

      Personal integrity is the only thing we have left to us and that is why it is so valuable.

      I appreciate you taking time to give me your view.

    • Angie Jardine profile imageAUTHOR

      Angie Jardine 

      8 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Hi Josak ... I think I am definitely on the same wavelength as you. I am sometimes regarded as gullible and even stupid when I make a stand for what I believe is right. Luckily I come from stubborn stock and this just make me dig my heels in further.

      Whenever I have let someone else sway me however I have regretted it as when I don't listen to my inner voice it always ends badly.

      Thank you for taking time out to comment.

    • profile image


      8 years ago from Beliot, Wisconsin

      Honour is needed more than ever in today's society especially in politics!! There does not seem to be ANY honourable people in political arenas today. If this were the case there would be no corruption that permeates today's govt. in any part of the world. When people of honour try to become part of the political scene they are either ridiculed or discredited with lies from the most UN-honourable of people. The politicians themselves. Why? Because if honour were reintroduced to politics they couldn't function the way they do today. No more lying, no more corp favours. They would have to learn to be morally upstanding people instead of the pond scum they are and that is too much work for them.

    • Pcunix profile image

      Tony Lawrence 

      8 years ago from SE MA

      Funny, I was going to write a hub about this very subject.. I may still, but what set this off for me was this: which is about Google seemingly violating its own promotion policies.

      Apparently Google is now saying that they never authorized the spammy promotion.

      I don't think that lets them off the hook because I doubt it would let me or anyone else escape their punishment.

      I too have been called an idealist and made people angry by standing on principle. On the other hand, I have also bent principle and have regretted it every single time.

      I think i will still write my hub, though maybe not today :-)

    • Josak profile image


      8 years ago from variable

      Interesting thread, I do believe there is a place for honor and scruple in the modern world, I get called naïve and am labelled an idealist more than i would care to say but I know that when I am alone with my own thoughts it will bring me pride and happyness to know that I did the right thing regardless of how convenient or safe it might be.


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