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HONOR

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

One’s honor is a gift that one gives oneself. Unlike other treasures, it cannot be taken. That is, someone else cannot force us to lose our honor. Rather, when it is lost, it is given away and oftentimes very cheaply. A situation may tempt one to lie but there is always a choice and it takes courage to keep the moral high ground.

We should ask ourselves what price we place on our honor. Too many people give it away. The lie is usually intended to get one out of a temporary predicament but the lie only makes it worse. I would much prefer to have someone say “I made a mistake and this is what I will do to fix it” than to have someone lie. Honor cements a special trust among worthy souls.

Some people seem to have the belief that an act is wrong only if one gets caught. I have actually heard people say that. However, such a person is morally bankrupt and has little chance of developing a real conscience and will never be truly happy; not in the best sense of the word anyway.

I remember an incident with Bill and David. They were both tasked to conduct an inventory of equipment. The requirement was for a serial-number inventory but David only did a physical-count inventory because it was quicker and simpler. When Bill did the right thing, he found that one piece of equipment had been switched between his unit and David’s unit. It was an easy task to return the equipment to the proper storage containers but the problem was David’s lie. He had signed a form indicating that he had done a serial number inventory but he had not. Consequently, he was fired and never trusted again. Some may think that punishment was harsh but honor is too important to be sacrificed by deception.

A person of honor shows the highest respect for both self and others. Honor is closely allied with courage. When honor is tested, it takes courage to stand up and do the right thing. But, cowards will take the easy way out and lie.

A friend of mine recently reminded me of an important saying that he learned when he was a boy, “When money is lost, nothing is lost. When health is lost, something is lost. When honor is lost, all is lost.”

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

Honor sinks where commerce long prevails. Oliver Goldsmith, Poet

Honor in 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 King

Honor has not to be won; it must only not be lost. Arthur Schopenhauer, Philosopher

Honor is the moral conscience of the great. Sir William D’Avenant, Poet

Honor lies in honest toil. Grover Cleveland, President

Honor is simply the morality of superior men. H.L. Mencken, Author

Honor is the reward of virtue. Marcus Cicero, Roman orator

COL 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 at 478-445-2710 or by email at pbeer@gmc.cc.ga.us.