What is honor?

How does one acquire it? Is honor a cloak that you can put on and take off at will?

I would say that honor is something that you build in your character over time beginning in childhood, much like putting on layers of clothes in the winter to stay warm. As the layers build upon your shoulders, you find yourself warm and comfortable and ready to face all the world throws at you.

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 the greatest valor in action against an enemy force.

There is a proverb, which says, “Ease and honor are seldom bedfellows.”

With that in mind, the everyday things that we face often take some difficult choices to keep those layers we accumulate in place.

I believe that there are many honorable people left in this world, although at time I do wonder why they are becoming harder to find.

Many people who you might expect to be cloaked in years of learning how to do the honorable thing can at times find the weight of the layers a difficult load to bear. As the temperature rises from the heat of the world, for some, they begin to toss the layers aside to ease the condition, sooth their feelings or suit their personal needs.

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 have earned, 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.”
If you continue layering on the fabrics of honor, by giving to your community, by helping others, by simply doing the right thing when faced with the choice that could try your soul, you are a better person for it. And because of that the world that we live in will be a better place for all of us.