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We have discussed Strength, the power to do. Courage, the will to do. Joy, that comes from doing, and counters the horrors of doing.

Now we must speak of Honor, which, in its essence, is the way to do.

Of course, honor is more than that, and if I am going to talk about honor I should probably clarify what honor is and how it works. Our Modern or Post-Modern world here in the West, hasn’t really dealt with honor on a personal level since, well, at least three, maybe four generations ago. At least since the 1960’s in someways, when our parents/grandparent threw off the old world for the new, liberated, progressive one we have today, that has no “need” of such archaic and “patriarchal” concepts such as honor. So what any of us really know about honor comes from either old stories (most of which are largely ignored these days), other cultures (hello, Mr. Samurai), or modern fiction in the form of the “Proud Warrior Race Guy.”

Sometimes you mix all three

As these things go, however, we still don’t have much in the way of Honor active in our culture anymore. Used to be, our leaders had to at least pretend to be honorable. Time was before that, they really had to be. These days, not so much.

I could write an entire article about why we have lost our concepts and practices of honor, and I just might, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about today. Today I speak of honor itself. Because Honor is more than just a way to behave, it was also a currency of sorts, a way to judge the measure of people, and something to aspire too.

In the old days, honor could get you a lot if you had it. Our modern credit cards actually can trace their origins back to the concept of Honor. An honorable man could be known as “Good for it” and be allowed to purchase things with the promise of payment later. Those who were dishonorable, dishonest, or whose honor was unknown, could not do so. These days, of course, anyone can get a credit card regardless of how good they are for it, or how honorable they are.

How did one gain honor? It wasn’t easy, but when you have something worth more than gold and precious jewels, that’s to be expected. Keeping your word, regardless of the personal cost and hardship. Performing valiant and great deeds, again often at great personal risk. These are just some of the deeds that could earn one honor.

Of course, it could be lost easily, through cowardice, lying, betrayal, and forsaking one’s oaths. And considering how much of life used to be based on one’s honor and reputation, the loss of honor could bring about terrible consequences not just for the individual, but for their family as well. An insult was serious business. Of course, how one dealt with that insult could determine the honor regained.

This is where different cultures, however, deal with matters of honor differently. We’ve all heard of duels, where two people battled matters of honor personally to determine things. This, however, is not universal. In Europe, were a young woman raped, one could count on her family going after the rapist. In Biblical Israel, one could find the young woman being married to her rapist. In modern Islamic nations you might find the young woman married to her rapist, or simply murdered by her own family for dishonoring them (though I have read that in the case of Islamic honor, the young woman can simply talk to a man not of her family, or wear “indecent clothing” and shame her family enough for them to kill her).

This may sound rather bad, as honor tends to seemingly involve a lot of violence, risk, and death. Many would ask, why do we need such a thing in our Modern World, surely we are above such petty things and the need to senselessly risk our lives for something so ephemeral. After all, we get along just fine without it, don’t we?

I’m not so sure. Certainly we could do a lot better if our politicians were honorable, rather than a bunch of corrupt scumbags who do as they please and never have to worry about the consequences. It would be much different if a senator had to worry about being challenged to a duel, or the governor of a state had to put his life on the line for his policies, rather than nothing.

Heck, I’d settle for them standing on principles.

I was watching the news a while back (I think it was Anderson Cooper) and he was talking about President Obama using Super PACs after Obama had talked about how unethical they were and so on. The person defending Obama basically said “For the sake of his principles, Obama can’t risk loosing, so he has to set aside his principles.”

Uh…yeah. I could spout some fortune cookie stuff about how a house of principles built on a foundation of setting aside those principles will fail, but it seems kinda obvious. Apparently hope and change aren’t good enough to stand on their own, because going down holding to your principles to the end is bad, better to toss them aside rather than even risk losing.

This is what happens without honor. People don’t stick with things. They toss them aside when its convenient, because there’s not price, no cost, to make trash that which you should have used to build.

This is why honor is important in the Nine Noble Virtues. Strength gives us power, Courage gives us will, Joy keeps us going in the dark, and Honor makes sure that we stick with what we start since there is glory and a reputation to be gained and upheld, and deep personal loss for giving into weakness, cowardliness, and guilt when you set aside your integrity.