“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” the last words in the Declaration of Independence. That last word though, honor; something particularly lacking in politics these days. That said, in many regards it extends far beyond just politics, it seems to be a problem in society as a whole. To support this let’s look at a study from psychology today where they found that 25% of the population tell two lies a day on average. 1% tell around 20 a day. This alone isn’t all that horrible, after all the majority only tell an average of one to zero which isn’t all that terrible all things considered.
Refocusing on honor for a moment, the amount of lies being told on average a day suggests there is a huge lack of honor, mainly in regards to the last part of honesty, at least how the Cambridge dictionary defines it, “a quality that combines respect, being proud, and honesty” Evidently as a society we’re not especially doing well on honesty, though we could be doing worse. That said, the first of the three combinations, that being respect, is also notably lacking, you can really read any comment section or look at the news for five minutes to see that. The middle of the two, being proud is notably lacking in some degrees, with pride in being an American at an all time low, and depression rates being 6.7% of the USA population according to ADAA.org
The next question is why is a lack of honor bad. To some of you this might already make sense, that said I’ll explore it anyways to show the true extent of this. As George Washington put it in his Farewell Address, “The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize.”
Now I’ll ask one question: what remains of prosperity, of liberty, and of freedom, if we have no unity in government, if we are not one people? Can a people truly have freedom if the government that stands to protect it does more to tear itself in half then to do the one thing it was built to. What remains of liberty if we are enslaving ourselves to a group rather than to fight for the ideals in which we believe? What remains of prosperity if we can only focus on hating our enemy rather than protecting and building something better?
The answer to all three of these is nothing. This is what society becomes if we allow honor to die. There is a reason the Founding Fathers pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, and died having done so. So how does honor fix this; especially since we can’t expect everyone in the world to suddenly become honorable. What remains then is what is in our power; to become honorable ourselves.
Look at honesty, if we’re not honest then we aren’t really respecting anyone, we don’t respect them enough to tell them the whole truth, whether that’s because you dislike them, disagree with them, or think you’re protecting them, regardless of the reason you aren’t showing respect. Look at being proud, now this might sound counterintuitive, after all pride isn’t listed as one of the seven deadly sins for nothing it can be damaging. That said, being proud and being prideful are different things. One is setting yourself up above others and the other is setting something else up. Now being proud can lead to being prideful but we don’t have to let it. Being proud isn’t about ignoring the flaws in something, it isn’t about shoving your head in the sand to ignore problems. It’s about raising your head high, not so you can look down on others, but so that you can see the world at its fullest. So being proud to be an American isn’t about ignoring America’s faults, it’s about learning both the good and the bad to their fullest and being proud of the good, and willing to amend the bad.
And lastly respect, something that can sometimes be so hard to keep or give. Respect isn’t something that should be lost over something such as sharing different religious, political, or ideological opinions as someone else. Nor is respect giving way and letting yourself be trampled on (self respect is important too), it’s about treating them with decency, not giving up on your own ideals because it’s comfortable for them. You could make arguments that not everyone is deserving of respect, but at the end of the day, the punishment always comes after the crime. So if you think someone truly doesn’t deserve respect, then let them have earned it via their own merits and not because they differ from you. Because after all, isn’t the fact they’re people, just like you merit them some respect?
So what will become of us being honorable? Will the nation fix itself just like that? No, but what will happen is we can make the world around us a better place, and sure we might not the course of nations through our acts, but we will change our world drastically, not necessarily the world, but ours. That is the power in honor, it is not something that is just given, but something each and everyone of us can have.
And if we can live to that ideal, understand having honor and chivalry in the traditional sense, isn’t just about respecting your friends because you know them, it’s about respecting everyone, not just you friends but the strangers you meet, and even your enemies, not because it is useful, or makes you feel better about yourself, but because it’s right.