Honor. A word very often misunderstood. Let’s explore the concept of honor a bit and see if we can clear up some of the common misconceptions.
Can we find a good definition? Time to crack open that dictionary and blow the dust off of the pages!
As defined by Merriam-Webster:
: respect that is given to someone who is admired
: good reputation : good quality or character as judged by other people
: high moral standards of behavior
Hmmm…. I am not so sure I like that definition, what about you?
I see too much faith being placed in the judgement of others. That to me is respect. The word respect even shows up in the Merriam Webster definition. Let’s try another respected, yes I used the “R-word”, dictionary source…
Definition of honor in the Oxford English Dictionary:
Still not sure I like this one. I still read a lot of outside influence and judgement. It still feels and behaves as I would expect the concept of Respect to behave. It shows that to have honor one must gain the respect or admiration of others. Is thise really what Honor is? If so, why do we have two different words?
What happens if we leave the “academic world” and dig further back in history. As a martial artist I live a life that carries meanings and concepts that were in existence well before the Merriam-Webster or Oxford English Dictionary. What about the Samurai, the source of much that is the quintessential working definition of what it means to be a warrior and martial artist today? In their code, the Bushido, they wrote of the virtue of Meiyo. Now, the definition of Meiyo is somewhat long-winded and is, of course, subject to the vagaries of multiple translations but, I believe the easiest way to describe honor as it is to be lived in the Bushido Virtue of Meiyo is:
a vivid consciousness of personal dignity and worth.
Yes, I do believe we have something here! Honor, as I have learned it over the years in the martial arts is not about the judgement of others. Honor is about that feeling that you have of yourself, your actions, your words. It is, or should be your INTERNAL compass. Those who truly have honor are able to look themselves in the mirror of self-reflection and say with honesty and sincerity that they are happy with their choices. These individuals have found that the only person who can judge them, give them true worth and help them to preserve their dignity is the person who stares back them from the mirror every morning.
The last few days I have had this concept brought to my attention by various sources for any number of interesting reasons. At times I have felt challenged in my understanding of honor and how it differed from respect. As I thought more about those conversations and situations I came to the conclusion that, as a martial artist and modern day warrior, I needed to go back to my “roots” for guidance. I needed to look at what ancient warriors thought of the life skills that I both attempt to live and to teach.
(Ironically, the next Bushido Challenge article I needed to write was on Meiyo – Honor! It will be published November 16th)
I much prefer the distinction that the Samurai made between Respect – Rei
– and Honor – Meiyo. I believe this is a much healthier and more humble way to live, seeking to do what is right by looking inward instead of outward.