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\”Honor\” – Word of the Week

Definition of the word of the week (HONOR): Principled uprightness of character, personal integrity

I remember telling a companion that I refused to engage in a battle of wits with him because there was no honor in fighting an unarmed man. Although the joke went over his head (which proved my point), it demonstrates that any task performed without honor has little value.

Living a life of honor is the right choice but it is not the easy choice. German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “The most spiritual human beings, assuming they are the most courageous, also experience by far the most painful tragedies: but it is precisely for this reason that they honor life, because it brings against them its most formidable weapons.”

Some people have an incomplete view of honor. For example, Georgia Military College has a well-known Honor Code that states, “I will not lie, cheat, or steal nor tolerate those who do.” Some critics point out that an honor code should not be proscriptive like the Ten Commandants that state “Thou Shalt Not.” Rather, the critics argue that an honor code should tell us what we should do, not what we should not do. However well-meaning, this critique is not well thought out. To truly understand our Honor Code, one must look beyond the words of the code to grasp the importance of its’ Spirit.

The Spirit of the Honor Code emphasizes being truthful (don’t lie) in all matters. This also applies to the principles of fairness (don’t cheat), respect for other people and their property (don’t steal) and a communal corporate responsibility (non-toleration) for honor. The Spirit of the Code is embodied in positive principles behind each of the Code’s four proscriptions. As an assertion of the way of life that marks men and women of true character, the Spirit of the Honor Code goes beyond the mere external adherence to rules and procedures. Students who live and abide by the Spirit of the Code are truthful, fair, respectful and corporately responsible.

The Honor Code clearly and succinctly tells the world what we as an institution believe to be important. However, I strongly believe that every individual needs a personal code of honor as well. Although you are welcome to embrace our Honor Code and make it your own, it is important that you develop a personal code of honor. If you fail to do so, you will never truly flourish as a human being. You may live, but you will never live well. As the great Greek poet Sophocles said, “I would prefer even to fail with honor than win by cheating.”
I’ve told you my Honor Code, what’s yours?

The following quotations are intended to assist in explaining and exemplifying the word of the week:

Honor is the moral conscience of the great. D’Avenant, British poet

Honor is simply the morality of superior men. Henry Louis Mencken

The battle of life is, in most cases, fought uphill, and to win it without a struggle were perhaps to win it without honor. If there were no difficulties there would be no success; if there were nothing to struggle for, there would be nothing to be achieved. Samuel Smiles, Scottish author

Ability without honor is useless. Marcus Cicero

Honor is the inner garment of the soul; the first thing put on by it with the flesh, and the last it layeth down at its separation from it. Akhenaton, Egyptian monotheist king

Fame is something that must be won. Honor is something that must not be lost. Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher

Meditation is the life of the soul; Action, the soul of meditation, and honor the reward of action. Francis Quarles, British poet

Honor lies in honest toil. Grover Cleveland, US President

Of all the properties that belong to honorable men, not one is so highly prized as that of character. Henry Clay

He who lives without discipline dies without honor. Icelandic Proverb

Whether you be man or woman, you will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor. James Allen, author

Worthless is the nation that does not gladly stake its all on its honor. Johann Von Schiller

When faith is lost, when honor dies, the man is dead. John Whittier, author

Honor is the reward of virtue. Marcus Cicero

Honor isn’t about making the right choices. It’s about dealing with the consequences. Midori Koto

Our own heart, and not other men’s opinion, forms our true honor. Samuel Coleridge

Zeal for the public good is the characteristic of a man of honor and a gentleman, and must take the place of pleasures, profits and all other private gratification. Sir Richard Steele, British essayist

Life every man holds dear; but the dear man holds honor far more precious dear than life. William Shakespeare

All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope. Winston Churchill

There is no question what the roll of honor in America is. The roll of honor consists of the names of men who have squared their conduct by ideals of duty. Woodrow Wilson

LTC Patrick Beer, the Dean of Students and Commandant of Cadets at Georgia Military College, prepares this study guide each week as part of the institution’s character education program. He welcomes comments and suggestions from readers. He can be contacted by phone, 478-445-2710 or by email, pbeer@gmc.cc.ga.us