The real meaning of honour.
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.
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.