THE BLOG
01/25/2014 12:16 am ET Updated Mar 26, 2014

Honorable Hall Pass

Knowing what you are is as important as knowing what you are not. Being honorable and knowing you are honorable are two very different things as well. Others may call you honorable and trustworthy, but that does not actually mean you are those things. Equally, an honorable act or two performed by you does not actually bestow the lifetime title of "honorable one."

I do not profess to own the bragging rights to honor. However, I will attempt to describe it as one who has been on the extreme ends of the honor scales, both sides.

To me, someone who is honorable is one who does not make a choice in any given situation as to doing things in an honorable manner. The person is not even provided with the personal choice to act or not to act in accordance with that which would be defined as honorable. When the truly honorable person is presented with a set of circumstances, he or she simply does what is honorable, without motive fanfare or choice. Their honor simply is, and as such, it defines itself as "honorable." How does someone like this exist? From where does this person emerge, and how do we have what they have? I don't think it is possible to acquire it or develop into it.

I think that, like superheroes, we have certain super strength, and honorable strengths are like being bulletproof or being able to leap tall buildings. Some have them, and some do not.

So, if being honorable is out of reach for the majority of humanity, which way do we turn to live a respectable life, inwardly speaking? The next level, as I see it, is where we surround ourselves with the least tempting or challenging opportunities to act out in a dishonorable manner, given we are faced with a set of circumstances that leave us with choices. For example, we surround ourselves with friends from church all week long. When we go shopping for the Wednesday potluck at your house and you're with your "church pew friends," you will most likely act out in the most honorable manner at the checkout -- no 12 items in the 10-items-or-less lane. What would they think? Maybe finding the cheaper tuna fish on the end cap and not returning to aisle four to return the more expensive tuna to its original location. Ah-ha!!!

By surrounding ourselves with sentry honor guards, we begin to set into action personal behaviors that become inside-job habits, which in turn increases our honorable quotas. This is good, and from all appearances, it would paint us as honorable in others' eyes.

For the majority, I would surmise, we actually are confronted with the choices to be honorable or not in any given situation, and we tend to choose the road more traveled rather than less traveled. From driving the freeway and not letting the guy in who needs to get off at the exit to cussing out the poor scaredy cat doing 45 mph instead of the posted 65 mph in front of you, when we think the "they" in any given interaction will never see you again, we tend to actually pick the dishonorable responses.

Why do we, the huddled masses, pick the dishonorable response to life? Does it remain just in the highway or cashier lanes of life, or does it spill over into other areas? If we become callous to the respectful or honorable choices and care less and less about the impact on others simply because we believe that underneath, we will not be held accountable either by a guilt moment or an uncomfortable stare, then do we blur the lines elsewhere?

Let's go there for a moment...

If the measurement of honor is being seen or caught, then paying your fair share of taxes could be blurred. Our prejudices, not advertised on social networks, could be bulk-wrapped with honor. If we continue to act, in private, against accepted honorable traditions, we walk faster into a pit of dishonorable hall passes. It is OK -- Wall Street bankers steal, lie and cheat, so what if I do it a little? No one is looking anyway. This has a way of turning into haphazard societal permission slips, which destroy the very fabric that binds us.

When our forefathers stepped away from England and set up camp here, they established rules and laws that helped define the social fabric of what could have been chaos and dishonorable accord. Instead, they had the foresight to set up the playbook and guidelines, with their own versions of instant replay, to make sure that fairness and righteousness prevailed more times than not. A large part of their system was personal accountability. In order to survive the things that could have torn them apart, they held each other accountable with common-courtesy, humanity-based standards and honorable expectations. Where have these expectations gone? Have we hidden them away with the non-accountable, less-honorable responses? I would suggest yes -- we threw it out with bath water.

If we are to hold ourselves together as the most powerful nation on earth, then we had better begin to really hold ourselves accountable for the personal relationship between us. If we expect our leaders to be truthful with us, we need to be truthful between ourselves; the "ourselves" is our humanity, and our humanity is that which interacts at the grocery store or on the highway or in electing our leaders or in being truthful with taxes, finances and our support of our humanity as it relates to that which we pick to speak for us.

If we don't really care what others think of us, then don't be upset when they don't think about us at all.