Honor is an all too commonly overlooked aspect of human nature in our secular Western societies. In the hustle and bustle of our fast-paced cities and amidst the clicking and whizzing of our brand new technologies, man has lost sight of what he once was, of the only thing that mattered to him: honor. It is nearly a foreign idea in our modern times. As our vast knowledge expands, threatening to engulf the very universe, our wisdom degresses at an alarming rate.
What is honor, then? Honor is, in a way, kind of like a house -- it shields and protects you in and it makes a statement about you when others see it. Certainly, it has evolved over the course of eight centuries as struggles with death are no longer everyday occurrences. However, the basic idea of honor remains unchanged; a combination of several qualities, such as compassion, selflessness, honesty, and chivalry. But on an even more basic level, the essence of honor is easily defined. When you have reached a point in your life where you are completely and totally comfortable in who you are, you will be able to be all that you claim to be. Being what you profess to be or professing to be what you truly are is the very core of honor, and all other aspects fall in to place afterward. For example, if you are not a kind man, don't go around telling others of your great kindness, and if you tell someone you're trustworthy, do your best to be so. If honor is a house, this is the land you build it on. You can build a house on anything, even sand, so long as you recognize that it is sand and not rock.
If this honesty is the land, than empathy is the foundation. It is important to understand others as well as yourself. One of the most shockingly depressing truths about humanity is its pure, unbridled ruthlessness. These days, it seems as though no one really cares about anyone who isn't directly connected to them. Take, for instance, a homeless man who asks you for a bit of spare change. Unfortunately, you would really rather not have to break a five at the mini-mart, so, for the sake of your convenience, the homeless man goes hungry. And it works both ways. That jerk behind you riding your bumper and laying on the horn might have his overdue pregnant wife in the backseat. So why don't you slow down? After all, he's behaving like an ass. It is called compassion to desire to reduce the suffering of others and to take their actions into rational consideration, and it is an integral part of honor, like the foundation of a house.
Close in hand with compassion is the idea of selflessness. It's opposing force, greed, is what drives our society's ruthless aggression. In fact, greed has undermined nearly every undertaking in human history. Take communism: Socialist ideologies always look good on paper, but when put into practice, what could be a perfect system always breaks down at the top, with a despot's greed. So is selflessness an absolute absence of greed? Not necessarily. It is more of a self-control issue. We all want things we don't need, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's when we cross the line and let desire consume us that we step beyond the bounds of honor. Selflessness is a boundary. Like the walls of a house, it keeps us where we should be.
And chivalry serves as a roof. Chivalry encompasses many ideals. Perhaps the most well-known is the fair and noble treatment of women. However, it also includes the idea that the innocence of a child and the wisdom of the elderly should also be respected. I am surprised when no one is even phased when an adult lighting off a string of obscenities in front of a child, or when a teenager tells a kindly old gentleman to shut up, or when some young punk pushes his girlfriend around shamelessly. It makes you wonder what happened; just fifty years ago these things were rarities, now I can't walk down the road without seeing two of the three. Chivalry is a roof because it keeps the things you don't want in your life out. Things like cursing, anger, abuse, hatred, and violence.
Honor is a house, and if built properly, it will stand for years, perhaps even outlasting you. The important thing, however, is not to be an honorable man in order to attain a legacy to call your own, but rather to act with honor solely because it is the right thing to do. Only when you do that will you really discover the true meaning of honor.