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Article: How Would You Define Honor?

How Would You Define Honor? - Noblesse Oblige Apparel

How Would You Define Honor?

"How would you define honor?"

I remember my father asking me this simple question when I was a young teenager. I don't remember the conversation, but I was probably opining about whatever hero of history I had most recently been studying. The question stumped me. I knew it was something good and desirable in one's character and I stammered out something to that effect, but it made me realize how ethereal the concept was in my own mind. And how can you live something out if you cannot even define it?

Don't mistake my interest in the subject as a sign that I was living such a life at the time. As a young man who had a very romantic view of the world, I had a childhood habit of holding up great men and women of history on a pedestal... and then falling tragically short of their examples. It would take many years for moments like this to materialize into anything actionable in my character (the Lord was very kind and longsuffering in dealing with my many stupidities growing up), but the question did imprint on my mind and repeat itself throughout my twenties.

To be fair, I don't think I was the only one who didn't have a clear definition in my mind. A trip to Merriam-Webster doesn't really help. As of 2023, the noun "honor" has 14 different definitions and most of them aren't very illuminating. The most useful definition is halfway down the list.

8a: a keen sense of ethical conduct : INTEGRITY

It's not a bad definition, but it isn't quite there. Ethical by what standard? I PROMISE you that Mao Zedong and I would fist fight over what constitutes as ethical behavior. How then can men, who vary in temperament and conviction, define what ethical behaviour is across the board? And why is that ethical behavior desirable? How could we possibly answer that? Like CS Lewis would observe in Mere Christianity, "A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line." Where do we get our idea of what that straight line is?

Lewis would later conclude that it is from God where we get our notions of straight and crooked. I agree wholeheartedly. From a basic logic perspective, without God, nothing really matters. We are just balls of meat who accidentally came to life flying on a rock hurtling through space until... we aren't anymore. The whole idea is so ridiculous, but if it were true, why be ethical in the first place? Survival of the fittest would then be the determiner of status, not anything metaphysical. What can I get away with and how can I get away with more? Atheists will argue that it is in one's best interest to live in such a way that he can get along with his neighbors, but that is only because they come from a place of weakness. If you have the ability to Gengis Khan your way across the world, why wouldn't you? Without God, you answer to no one. But, if God is, there is One whom even Gengis should fear.

I do fear God and I have personally seen Him work in my life. Better yet, He isn't like the temperamental, lascivious, selfish gods of the Greek pantheon. He is wonderful. If you don't know Him, I would strongly urge you to start to search for Him. He's there, He's waiting for you with open arms, and He'll change your life for the better. But even if you don't believe in Him, He does provide a framework for living in the Bible that will benefit even the most ardent atheist.

For those who haven't read it, the Bible is a WILD ride. It has everything. Love, revenge, adventure, tragedy, redemption arcs, villain arcs, seemingly endless lists, its got it all. Something I like to focus on is its heroes and ESPECIALLY the ones God specifically praises. Bragging about Job, He tells Satan, "Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?"

Or later of King David, "I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after Mine own heart, which shall fulfil all My will."

How about Jesus praising John the Baptist? "Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist."

Can you even fathom living such a life that when God speaks of you, He matter of factly states that there are none like you on the Earth? What qualities those men must have possessed that God Himself singled them out amongst all their peers? Is it possible to live in such faith, or courage, or righteousness, or obedience, or humility, that He might one day compliment me? I dare not speak for Him, but just as one cannot know what a crooked line is without knowing what straight looks like, I cannot hit a target without knowing where the bullseye is.

Western civilization, for all of its sins, would take this bullseye and run with it. Much to the chagrin of the post-modern left, Biblical values would become more or less synonymous with Western values through much of the the 1st and 2nd millennium. Those generations, imperfectly aiming and often faithlessly so in the general right direction would give rise to the most blessed and prosperous societies that have ever walked the Earth. As much as modernity might wish to throw off the "shackles" of Christianity, anyone speaking honestly and without ignorance cannot help but acknowledge the credit the Bible is due for having shaped the modern world. America as a society in the 21st century seems strangely intent on cutting the very branch on which they comfortably sit from the Tree of Life.

Throughout the years, I have defined honor in a number of ways, sometimes closer and sometimes further from the truth. If you were to ask me now however, here is how I would answer the question my father asked me nearly two decades ago.

1a: the physical and abstract manifestations of the virtues, as defined by the Bible, in one's heart.
1b: the track record of such manifestations that indicate such virtues have deep roots throughout one's character.

I like the definition because it provides a bullseye for people to hit while accounting for the more historical definition which was more interested in one's reputation. It also allows for the defining of its antonym: dishonor, or the physical and abstract manifestations of vice, as defined by the Bible, that proceed from one's heart.

With this definition, the easy work is done and the hard work begins. We now have a target at which to aim. Some of us may hit it and fewer still will hit the bullseye... but it is there for us to aim at nonetheless. Postmodernists will guffaw and snicker at the thought and then argue that sexual gratification and self realization are the only things that matter. To be fair, it sounds like a nice thought, but to be honest, I have never known a postmodernist who didn't secretly hate him or herself. I think they know the target is there and just wish it weren't. It's their prerogative to live however they want. God gives each of us that choice. As for me however, I aim to live in such a way that God might one day say to Satan, "Hast thou considered My servant Jared?"

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