A Culture of Honor

Driving down a familiar road, I came up over the hill and was arrested by the sight of hundreds of flags with white crosses at the base, posted in memory of those who died in service to our country. The ultimate sacrifice for a priceless gift: freedom. The display was for Memorial Day, a day of honor. Something shifted in my heart and stimulated my thinking.

Honor and respect are fundamental to building a life of success and significance. Success and significance are represented by the quality of our relationships. Humility, integrity, and honor are intricately connected in building long-lasting relationships. And since the quality of our relationships results in the quality of our lives, these three attributes should be elevated in our understanding.

Humility is defined as “freedom from pride or arrogance: the quality or state of being humble”. To be humble means to be unpretentious; to refrain from being haughty or arrogant. I think of  humility as the willingness to sit down on the inside. It’s choosing to listen when you want to talk. It means letting go of the need to be right. It’s choosing to honor another by listening without judgment – and without interruption.

True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less. – C.S. Lewis

Integrity is synonymous with honesty and choosing to do the right thing, whether it’s easy or not. There’s never a wrong time to do the right thing. Ralph Waldo Emerson quipped, “the louder he talked about honor, the faster we counted our spoons”. This makes us chuckle, but it refers to the fact that integrity is reflected in the way we live, not what we give lip service to. Reputation is what other people know about you. Integrity is what you know about yourself.

If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.” – Harvey Mackay

Honor means showing respect and is a choice to lift and esteem another. Merriam Webster defines honor as a showing of merited respect and a keen sense of ethical conduct. Winston Churchill said, “our inheritance of well-founded, slowly conceived codes of honor, morals, and manners, the passionate convictions, which so many hundreds of millions share together of the principles of freedom and justice, are far more precious to us than anything which scientific discoveries could bestow”.

Ability without honor is useless. – Marcus Cicero

How different would the world be if the majority of people wanted to create a culture of honor? As an executive trainer committed to working with teams to raise their emotional intelligence and build a healthy culture, I get excited about the concept of a culture of honor. Yet as I’ve pondered this term, I’ve become aware that an offensive counterfeit has tried to steal the concept. In some cultures, the term has become distorted to mean “feeling obliged to protect one’s reputation by answering insults, affronts, and threats, often through the use of violence”. We see this in the news every day. Historically, family feuds illustrate this cultural attitude. Currently, inner-city gang behavior displays an evil and warped since of this type of “honor”.

 It’s time to restore the true meaning of a culture of honor in individuals and the organizations we work in. The result will be unity. Unity is an expression of connection with others. Authentic connection results in an optimal mindset to problem-solve, learn, and grow.

What is your part in establishing a genuine culture of honor? It can start in your family, your workplace, your community. It begins here and now with you and me. Humility, integrity, and honor pave the way.

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