Today I write about honour. Perhaps a curious subject but one that I’ve been pondering on for the past few days after proclaiming to my spouse, rather presumptuously, that I am a person of honour. They challenged me, asking: “What makes a person honourable?” This got me thinking am I an honourable person and, more importantly, what does it mean to be a person of honour.
One of the definitions of honour I found states this: “Adherence to what is right or to a conventional standard of conduct” Oxford Dictionary. A simple Google search revealed this: “the quality of knowing and doing what is morally right.”
This begs the question, again, am I an honourable person. I believe that when the going is easy and the decision to do what is right in the moment is cut and dry it’s easy to do the right thing. For me an example might go like this: I am in a store, a bit short on cash, and see a chocolate bar that I yearn for, but can’t afford. I know stealing is wrong, not to mention against the law, so I don’t put the chocolate bar in my pocket and walk out without paying for it. I leave it on the shelf. Easy decision for me, not much contemplation goes into that decision. I must highlight I’m talking from my own perspective – such a decision is easy for me.
But when the going is tougher and the decisions are not so easy we can be challenged to our core. When we face difficult situations where taking the easy way out seems appealing, and doing what is right can be difficult and challenging, we face some tough decisions. For me an example might go like this: I go to the store and buy a bunch of groceries. In my basket of goods is six tins of tuna. I pay for my groceries and head on home. At home I inspect my bill and discover I only paid for five tins of tuna! Tough decision time for me. Sitting here in front of my computer writing this post the answer to this seems easy and obvious to me. However, I am challenged as I write this! Would I get in my car, drive back to the store to pay for a R10 tin of tuna? Would I rationalise with myself the store already makes enough profit from me, that it’s their mistake so why should I go to all that effort. Would I take the easy way out?
I happened across this touching statement by Ayn Rand: “Honor is self-esteem made visible in action” (The Ayn Rand Letter, Jan. 14, 1974). I believe that with self-esteem is self-respect. If we respect ourselves we improve our self-esteem. By respecting myself the decisions I need to make about honour become clearer. But I need to be aware of Ayn Rand’s entire statement which ends with the word “action”. I need to put my self-respect and self-esteem into action. It’s not enough make the right decision, it’s important to put that decision into direct action. This reminds me of an age-old saying: “Actions speak louder than words.”
As I progress on this journey called life I have come to understand that making an honourable decision is worthless if I don’t back it up with honourable actions. Only when I am doing this consistently may I consider myself an honourable person. Being an honourable person is not a once-off activity, but a lifetime commitment to doing what is right.
“All men that have honor are kings, but not all kings have honor… Honor is what no man can give you and none can take away. Honor is a man’s gift to himself.” – Robert Roy MacGregor.
Yours in lifelong learning,