by Jeanne Adams
So just what is "Honor"?
I've been giving this familiar concept a lot of brain-computing space recently. Why, you ask? A a dear friend wrote me a long, heartfelt note and spent a great deal of the missive complimenting my late father. Among other things, she had an intense focus on remembering him as being a man of honor.
I know what she meant by it - he was a man of his word, he followed through on things, he was courteous and courtly and gentlemanly. He didn't let people down. He was Honorable.
I began to wonder how I could instill that in my own sons, now that their grandfather is gone. Then I realized my husband is a man of honor as well. He doesn't tolerate injustice. He is gentle, yet strong, among other things, and he is a man of his word.
So, does that mean you have to be the proverbial knight in shining armor to be a man of honor? My husband is wonderful - perfect for me - but he's human. Not a sword or horse in sight.
Hmmm. There was a conundrum. I puzzled over that one because I know men who are honorable, but to put it bluntly, they ain't angels, if'n you know what I mean!
Many of the heroes we read in books today aren't perfect. They aren't Sir Percival, nor are they even Lancelot, heralded as the most honorable in his time. (Pre-Gwen, obviously!) However, these 21st century heroes are frequently men of great personal honor. Sometimes, their honor requires them to lie, cheat, and steal to return something, or someone to its rightful place. Does that make them less honorable, or more so that they're willing to do what it takes to right a wrong?
Hmmm. More pondering.
Then I did one of those kinda dumb things. I GoodSearched the word Honor.
People name their horses, dogs, ferrets, cars, golfcarts, trucks and even planes Honor. There are Honor Societies, there are Maids of Honor, there's the movie Made of Honor - Yum! Patrick Dempsey! - there's video games called Medal of Honor.
There's more anime art regarding honor than you can page through in a year. On the anime, I'm guessing this is following the intense focus on honor in the martial arts and the ryu traditions of cultures thorughout the East.
The anime stuff brought me right back to that nebulous concept though.
Honor the fallen. Keep your honor at all costs. Honor your father and mother - wow, there's a potent use of the term.
So how is it that we show it in our flawed, human, and ever so interesting heroes? How do we define it within ourselves?
Keeping faith with those we love was one way that sprang to mind. As romance writers, no matter the genre, we write about relationships. There is nothing more damaging to a relationship than breaking faith with your lover, partner, wife, husband, etc. It's dishonorable. In general, we see this as a point of honor - to keep the faith. We have it in most marriage vows - To love, honor and cherish.
Then there's that other usage, to honor tradition. We break the glass, we raise the flag, we lower the flag, we bow our heads, we cover our heads, we uncover our heads, we raise our glasses, we wear black, we paint our hands, we take off our shoes....the traditions are endless, but it satisfies some need in us to remember.
To keep a touchstone with our families, our roots, our friends, our experiences both good and bad.
Honor. It's a weird word. It's a difficult, and yet somehow very simple concept.
What does it mean to you?
What's the most honorable action you've ever "seen" in a hero in a book?
Ever bear witness to a truly honorable action in person? (Large or small!)
Other than general or specific holidays, what's a tradition you like to honor? (And if you want, tell us why)
Any suggestions on how you teach honor other than by example and the Golden Rule? Grins.