I am creating this post to share a short insight that I believe is worth reading about, as I feel my life has been enhanced in the process of learning it myself. If you feel inspired to share something that can add value to this insight, I would love to read and respond to what you have to say in the comments section of this post! Thank you for joining me here to read this insight, "Higher than Honor"!
Consider the above quote by Aristotle. Have you ever felt more dignified because someone else gave you honor? There are more than likely many people who felt like more of a respectable person, felt more dignified, because of the honor they received from others. It is something that I have more than likely fallen into from time to time in my own life. The truth is, it's easy to feel good about being honored. It is completely natural! The danger lies in the risk of falling into a "puffed up" attitude, in which one craves the honor they receive from others so much that they are willing to gain it in untruthful ways. This scenario is similar to a child fabricating exaggerated stories about what they did on the weekend in order to be "cool" and gain favor from his/her friends. To declare oneself as more than what they are in order to gain honor is most certainly not an honorable trait.
Honor, when not desired enough, can cause one to become unambitious and unmotivated in life. Without seeking honor from God, family, friends, peers, or even strangers, the motivation to keep going is going to likely be in a much shorter supply. Seeking honor, then, can become unhealthy in excess and in lack. If one is motivated by honor more than their desire to be truthful, they may steal rightful honor from others, or gain it by dishonest means. If one does not seek to be honored or live a genuinely honorable life, then they may become lackadaisical and lose their motivation to keep moving toward their virtuous goals in life. For this reason it is important for everyone who can to find the healthy middle ground for honor in their lives.
So what is honor? Honor is high respect, great esteem, and an adherence to what is right. That is a tricky definition though... who defines what is "right"? For Theists, God defines right. For Atheists, there is no objective standard for "right", it's all relative to one's own experience in the bigger picture. A few qualities which often spark the reaction of attaching honor to a person, making it easy to hold them in high esteem, are the following: Authenticity, bravery, courage, intelligence, maturity, self-sacrifice, perseverance, and other like qualities. Those don't seem so bad, they seem like very high virtues, and in many cases, of course, they are! Consider, however, the bravery shown by soldiers battling for the Nazi party during WW2. Consider the self sacrifice of the kamikaze pilots in Japan. Consider the intelligence of the Nazi scientists conducting experiments on innocent people. As you have probably realized by now, the qualities that inspire honor do not always do so in every case. In order to feel that someone is truly honorable, one has to be in agreement with certain philosophies or viewpoints acted upon by the one who receives that honor.
What am I getting at? Well, to summarize, there is a quality that is higher than honor! Honor itself is a high thing. It is not based in selfishness, because it is the authentic lifting of others, and does not necessarily benefit the one doing the "honoring" in any way. One may win favor from a professor if the student honors them enough, but without a truthful sense of honor being present, that student is simply being a term we often hear in high school, a "teacher's pet", and that is a selfish act. No, honor is always selfless, it is true... but there needs to be something more for it to be of ethical uprightness. Just having honor by itself is not enough. Whatever is above honor, then, is very high indeed.
Here is where we reach the main point of this insight. The quality that gives rise to honor is far more important than the honor itself! This is an important point to grasp. A bit of self-reflection can really do a lot to decrease the clutter in our inner-worlds. That is what I would now like to invite you to participate in with me. With a pen and paper, or the notes app on your phone, write a list of all the people who you feel a sense of honor for, and why. When you are done writing that list, think back to the main point stated above. Is there anyone on that list who for some reason you felt unsure of why you honor them in the first place? Maybe you honor a person because they simply are entertaining. Could it be that a person you honor is not showing truly honorable/virtuous characteristics? The people who we honor are the same people that we often adopt characteristics of, and in various ways try to become. That is why it is essential to understand why you honor the people you do!
Now take some time to reflect on who you are motivated to receive honor from, and how you intend to gain that honor. Through this simple practice, we may catch ourselves in a unconscious act of selfishness! Are the things we are doing to receive honor beneficial to other people as well as ourselves... or are they simply a fabrication, an act, which we are making up in order to be lifted up by other people. I believe it is far more rewarding to be true to who we are, as well as to be true to other people, than it is to seek favor through untruthful or deceptive means.
Can you now see why the topic of honor can be an important one to reflect on? I hope that you do. I am glad that you took the time to read this insight with me today! If you'd like to, you may share the list of people who you honor in the comments. I would love to learn about who motivates you, and who you see as a people of high character. Here is a short list of people who I personally honor in my life!
Jesus Christ: I honor Jesus for many reasons including but not limited to- His sacrifice on the cross, during which He prayed for His executioners, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.", His wonderful ethical teachings, the way He treated women as people of value in a largely sexist culture, the way He treated religious hypocrites (Pharisees, Sadducees) in a way that was effective and also teachable, and the way He loved, healed, and forgave many people during His walk on earth.
My Parents: I honor my parents because they are the reason I am here in the first place, and because they have shown me unconditional love throughout all the years of my life.
Crazy Horse: I honor crazy horse because of his commendable leadership as an Oglala Lakota warrior. I also honor him because of his character of humbleness and modesty despite his great fame, and his generosity toward the elderly and the poor.
Mother Theresa: I honor Mother Theresa because of her outstanding and far reaching charity work, which ultimately led to helping and even saving the lives of millions of people.
Ashton Kutcher: I honor Ashton Kutcher because of the hard work he does to take down the horrible reality of pedophilia.
Harriet Tubman: I honor Harriet Tubman for her bravery in aiding the 19th century slaves reach freedom, despite the tremendously high risks it required for any person carrying out that kind of work.
Dr. Larry Arnn: I honor Dr. Arnn because of his commitment to education and for his willingness to create online courses which are available for free on the Hillsdale College website! It was through one of these free courses that I gained some of the insights which I shared on this very post!