When I was a little boy, I remember holding my dad’s hand while walking on the sidewalk along the main street of our county seat.
He seemed so big even though the large buildings of brick and stone along the street made even him look small by comparison. The cars seemed to speed buy as folks rushed about in life trying to fill their days with making a living.
But what sticks in my mind more than anything from those walks, is how our paths crossed with others. No matter who passed they seemed to have a kind word to share with my father. Often complete strangers seemed to spend a moment of their time with as dad shared a funny story seemed to lift their spirits.
He was not someone who you might think of as being an important person. He wasn’t a star; he was never elected to office, he just worked like almost everyone else we came across on our walks. No matter whom we saw, he treated people with respect, without regard for their social economic level, where they came from or what they looked like.
I think one of the greatest lessons I learned was that more than the respect he showed for others, the importance of respecting one’s self was paramount. That respect reflects the depth of how others will honor your life, he once told me. If you respect yourself, others will do so as well. That respect will shine in your work, your friendships, your service, and in how you walk down the street. Respect helps foster the honor that only you can earn.
Are there other ways one acquires honor? Is honor a cloak that you can put on and take off at will?
I would say that honor is something that you acquire over time, much like putting on layers of clothes in the winter to stay warm. Once the layers are in place, you find yourself warm and comfortable.
Webster defines honor with a list of terms, including: respectful regard, esteem, worship, reputation, exalted rank, fame, magnanimity, scorn of meanness, self-respect, chastity, an outward mark of high esteem and glory.
Through the Congressional Medal of Honor, our country pays tribute to our soldiers who show valor in action against an enemy force.
There is a proverb, which says, “Ease and honor are seldom bedfellows.”
I believe that there are many honorable people left in this world, although they are becoming harder to find.
Many people who cloak themselves in years of honor can at times find the weight of the layers a difficult load to bear. As the temperature rises, for some they begin to toss the layers aside to suit their personal needs and feelings.
It was poet Nicholas Boileau who said, “Honor is like an island, rugged and without a beach; once we have left it, we can never return.”
I tend to agree — once you begin to throw off the layers, you are on the road to no longer being an honorable person. Unfortunately in life we find these in every walk of life. It is difficult to tell at times when someone is fully cloaked in honor or casting off his garments. Of course, there are many who simply never bothered to get dressed at all.
To describe those who truly have honor, I lean towards the words of Scott O’ Grady: “It wasn’t the reward that mattered or the recognition you might harvest. It was your depth of commitment, your quality of service, the product of your devotion — these were the things that counted in a life. When you gave purely, the honor came in the giving, and that was honor enough.”
Mark Twain said, “It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not deserve them.”
It is sad in life when one does not receive the respect or recognition he or she has worked to receive, but one can find solace in the fact that if you remain layered in the fabric of honor, you are the better person for it.
If we had more fathers teaching sons the importance of honor in the sense of one’s ability to build character and keep it throughout life, we certainly would see and read less bad news and find more people that we would want spend time talking with along main street.