Honor Defined

Honor Defined:

The other day I was asking a boy if he could define "honor." Most people can't. It's a word we use very loosely; some people think it means something like "honesty" or "integrity." It doesn't mean either, exactly, as the parable of John Randolph shows clearly.

A guest is coming to dinner; Mr. Randolph is not prepared to receive him; he opens the door to the guest and says, "Sir, I am not home"; the guest leaves, without attempting to say in any way that Mr. Randolph is being less than truthful.
If honor meant "honesty," saying something that was obviously untrue would be proof of dishonor. Instead, Randolph's story shows that a man of honor is taken at his word -- even when it is obvious he is telling you something untrue. The visitor's willingness to take his word when he is telling an obvious untruth is proof of his honor, not his dishonor.

Why? When you understand that riddle, you will understand the real nature of honor.

"To honor" is to sacrifice something you value, in favor of something greater. You might honor a man by sacrificing your time to come to his birthday party. You might honor your country by risking your life for it. Some who do lose their lives in sacrifice. You sacrifice of yourself for something greater, something that matters to more than just you.

Honor is the quality of a man who does this.

A man of honor can be relied upon, because he will sacrifice his personal interests for his principles. This is the reason "honor" has become confused with simple honesty: we assume that such a man will only tell the truth. Yet he might -- as Randolph did -- have a reason to do otherwise. Because he has shown himself to be a man of honor, we trust him even when we don't know his reasons.

That willingness of people to place their faith in his hands is the proof of his honor. He would not have it if he had not earned it. Such a man is beloved, and when we love a man it is because of the sacrifices he has made for us. It is because he has loved us, and things we love, and at cost.

That is honor.

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