The True Meaning of Honor

I’m not going to sit here and preach to you that I have met and interacted with every type of person, because I haven’t. And I can assure you that nobody else in this world has either. So how would a boy who

grew up in the war torn streets of Afghanistan define honor compared to the daughter of a wealthy investment banker? The true meaning of honor has to mean something different to different people from cultures, cultures with different values, those with different character, and those who have had different life experiences. For example, not lying to a parent might not be as honorable as other things to someone who has experienced sacrificing something of value for the betterment of someone else.

I can open up a dictionary and tell you that the definition of honor is “honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions,” or maybe “A principled uprightness of character; personal integrity.” I can also tell you that the word has a Latin, Middle English, and Anglo-French origin and to pronounce it you have to be able to say on-er. But a bunch of words jumbled together by the folks at American Heritage can only give you the impression that you now possess the knowledge of what “honor” really means. But do you? I don’t. Truthfully, I have no idea what those American Heritage literary geniuses are trying to tell me.

However, I can certainly tell you my opinion. I believe honor is being you, in the sense of being individual, independent, and thinking for yourself while doing what you believe is right. Today, everyone is being brainwashed to do what society wants them to do and have the same opinion about everything. Yes, that Northface jacket, those gazillion Polos, and having the best truck in town might get you respect, but how much of an individual are you? How much of this “honor” would it take for you to drive something more fuel efficient? Or to wear something outside of the boundaries of the standard classic fit Polo? I ask myself this as well because I am also guilty of following some trends. So how much individuality do I have? Am I honorable?

To take individuality to a further extent, how much honor does one have to have to risk sacrificing his or her life to help someone else need, especially if no one else around does? In the epic poem Beowulf, Wiglaf, a soldier of the king Beowulf, has enough individuality to decide that he alone will assist his loyal king instead of fleeing like the rest of the warriors. Honor of this magnitude is hard to rival.
Since honor to different people can mean things completely different, it’s almost impossible to come up with a solid definition of what it actually is. To some people being a brave soldier and dying for the country you love is honorable. For others, it might be being a Peace Corps volunteer in a poor African country. While both of these instances that are considered honorable might be a little different, I think it all goes back to being an individual and doing what you think is right. Those volunteers don’t go to Africa just for an experience. They go to help a world in need. Those soldiers aren’t out there dying for any reason, they are ensuring America stays free.

So in the end, to you, me, or even the girl next door, what is considered honorable might seem to be completely different, but it still shares the same basic idea. To be honorable is to be that person who goes against society, leads not follows by being an individual, or even helps a king slay a fire breathing dragon. And while even in Pagan times honor was present, throughout that tiny bit of time that has elapsed till now, the same basic idea still exists.