Honor, opening volley

In yoga class last Friday, our teacher asked us to think of a word we’d like to use as a mantra or guiding principle over the course of 2008.  The word that popped into my mind, and stuck there like an annoying burr no matter how I tried to dislodge it, was honor.

Honor. No problem to think about that one, hmmm?  Honor yourself, others, the world.  Yes, yes, very goodHonor
idea.  But as with all spiritual concepts, there is ever so much more to it when you start giving it real thought. And of course, I’m now tripping on ideas of honor at the click of every hour.

Reading a regular column called A Million Ways to Save the World in the new Oprah magazine, a line struck me like a thunderclap:  Forget self-esteem…focus on self-respect, says Diana de Vegh, a psychotherapist.

Not self-esteem, self-respect. It made me hear my father’s voice in my head, exhorting me to be responsible, to think about the consequences of my actions (and, thankfully, he never allowed me to slide–if consequences were not forthcoming from external sources, he imposed them from within the family structure).   

Not self-esteem, self-respect. One implies unconditional love, which is fine in its place.  The other encourages esteem born of action and responsibility to self, others, the community and world.  Honor? 

I have been thinking far too often of one of the incidents from last week, about a person I am fond of who took a dramatic and destructive turn.  The consequences are terrible for her, and she was first in my prayers and sorrows, but as the days pass, I keep catching glimpses of the ripples that radiate outward from her, and how many different people are affected in small and large ways.  She most of all, of course, but we all choose our paths, one way or another, and so did she.  Those around her did not choose but will be forced to deal with the fall-out.  Her actions have consequences.

I’m sure many of you have heard about the plagiarism discussion surrounding a historical romance writer, who was outed on an irreverent romance review website. (I am not going to contribute to the fire by adding links or names–that is not the point here.) There are dishonorable actions all around on this one–the plagiarism is wrong, and should rightfully have been reported.  But with power comes responsibility, and the glee of the exposers is in poor taste.  The body of journalism law and ethics has developed for a reason, out of trial and error. Plagiarism is a crime that must be reported whenever it is discovered. That is responsible.  Continuing to hoot and holler over the crime after reporting makes it feel about as appealing as a couple of sixth graders kicking a dead deer on the side of the road.

Also, Madeline L’Engle says, "If you don’t do your work, it might not ever get done."  My minister (whom I seem to be quoting a lot here recently) says over and over, "Do what is yours to be done." 

Simple, clear, straightforward, and like a powerful sword, the idea carries both redemption and crusade.  If you do your work, it then goes into the world to heal or inspire or quiet or amuse or breathe life or excite or express.  If you do it, things heal, get better.  If you don’t, the work goes unfinished, the holes remain, the ache stays aching.

It’s almost impossible to imagine a world in which everyone is doing that, focusing on what is theirs to do.   I can certainly see times in my life when simply focusing on my own stuff would have made a difference.  I’m sure you can see incidents in your own, can’t you?  To earn self-respect, I must be responsible to the press of the work that is mine to do, and the consequences are toward healing.   My acquaintance turned her back on what was hers to do, and the result is crushing.  The reporters of the plagiarism were responsible and did what was theirs to do, but then allowed power to lead them into destructive action, and thereby possibly wound the work that is still theirs to do.  They turned honorable action to dishonorable action.  Sensationalism is never honorable. (Notice how sensationalism enters into the presidential race, for example.)

Hmm.  I think this is going to be very interesting, exploring honor, as part of what is mine to do this year.

What is yours to honor this year? What does honor mean to you? 

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5 thoughts on “Honor, opening volley

  1. Thank you, once again, for making me think and think deeply, not superficially, not shallowly. Honor is a Big Word and a Big Thought and worthy of a year of contemplation surely.

  2. Honor is a huge word for me because I always tie it to integrity. So you’ve given me lots to think about here. I love your pastor’s quote,”Do what is yours to be done.”

    Starting last year and continuing into this one my goal has been to honor the vessel I’ve been given. A healthy body is such a gift that we often take for granted. I’m working to honor mine by putting nutritious food in it, giving it a good night’s rest and stretching the mind and the body with exercise and meditation.

    Now you’ve given me something to add to this. By honoring the vessel I can truly be capable of doing what is mine to be done.

    Like I said, lots to think about.

  3. Wonderful, wonderful post, Barbara. And I agree with you about the glee taken–I don’t understand the whole “woo-hoo!!” factor of this. Plagiarism is an ugly, ugly thing for all involved, and people on both sides pay for it for a long time to come.

    I also agree with Rosie, that this year I will honor my health (though not while we’re having margaritas in SF, right, Rosie?!). I will honor my work, both what I’m paid for and what I’m yet to be paid for.

    Self-respect–and respect for others. Though I guess without the first, you can’t have the second. I certainly think that’s a challenge facing a lot of people these days, what with all the self-destructive behavior we’re seeing reported. I think concentrating on your own work to be done is helpful in many ways: 1. you feel better about meeting your obligations; 2. you don’t have the energy to go messing in anyone else’s business; and 3. your owrk might just be an inspiration to others.

    Happy new year!

  4. Denise

    Barbara, what a thoughtful post and thoughtful responses.
    Honor is not the easy path, is it? Honoring yourself, honoring God… require self-sacrifice and self-discipline and self-restraint ( resisting temptation) today, in order to have a better tomorrow. I definitely need to focus on Honor this year.
    I have put the L’Engle quote and your responding thought in my inspiration journal and on my wall. “If you don’t do your work, it might not ever get done.”
    “Do what is yours to be done.” Simple, clear, straightforward, and like a powerful sword, the idea carries both redemption and crusade. If you do your work, it then goes into the world to heal or inspire or quiet or amuse or breathe life or excite or express. If you do it, things heal, get better. If you don’t, the work goes unfinished, the holes remain, the ache stays aching.

  5. Integrity is definitely a part of honor. Another Big Word

    Rosie, great take on honoring the body in order to do the work that needs to be done. Yes.

    Margaritas can be part of honoring the body. :)

    Denise, I think you would love the L’Engle book.

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