“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” – Albert Einstein

In case you don’t remember, since I am getting far afoot from my plea for questions (I say, in a cheap ploy to milk as much time as I can get from this exercise), Cormac asked:

The game we play emphasizes the concept of honor. Rather interestingly, I have yet to find two people that have the same definition of that concept. I’d be very interested to know how you define it.

I could cop out and give you the old “pornography” maxim:

I can’t tell you what it is, but I know it when I see it.

It’s hard to give you a definition in a single, throw off phrase if you are serious about it.  I am not going to tell you I have any great wisdom to impart on the concept of honor, because it’s something I struggle to articulate well.

I guess it’s easier for me to tell you how to be an honorable person, rather than define what honor is as a noun.

Speak the truth, but speak it in a way that does not cause unnecessary pain.?

Some people think they are doing the world a favor by being brutally honest, and they use this as a cloak for simple sadism.  The?honesty is a precious commodity, but so is mercy.  Truth is never an excuse for cruelty.

Do not make promises lightly, and when you do make them, treat them with the gravity they deserve.

Be a person of your Word, and keep the capital in front of it.  Don’t promise something you are unable or unwilling to deliver.   In the eagerness to please, we tend to make promises beyond our abilities to keep them.  There is nothing wrong with honestly evaluating your ability to be true to a promise and deciding you cannot make one.  But if you do, follow through.

Offer each and every human being your respect until they show you they don’t deserve it.

This is where I get horribly un-medieval about the concept of honor.  Thankfully, the SCA gives me an excuse by presenting the assumption that we are all of the noble class, and I can dispense with the ingrained inequalities of the class concept.

That being said, in general, I think this is the biggest place where people who profess to be honorable get it all wrong.  They start with the proposition that their respect has to be earned.  The inherent assumption in this places them in a place above to the “earnee”.  They automatically assume their own superiority.  This doesn’t really fit in with my concept of honor.

By starting with the opposite, that all human beings are placed upon this earth with purpose, and that my life is not inherently worth more than anyone elses, I offer respect to each person, until they have the chance to earn my disapprobation.  And I find that more often, respect is returned where it is given.  If you want to be respected, offer it.  Do not expect it to be given to you automatically and expect everyone else to earn yours.  This is an attitude that is so prevalent, it’s almost the norm rather than the exception.  It is a reciprocal thing, and should be treated as such.

But I think mainly, in a nutshell, my concept on honor is best described as this:

Try not to make messes, but if you make a mess, clean it up.

That is at the center of my definition of honor.  We are imperfect, flawed beings with ONE perspective to view the world – our own.  We are not omniscient.  None of us have the corner on rectitude.  We will make mistakes.  We will make misjudgements.  We will hurt other people, intentionally or not.

Own your shit and clean it up.  Don’t make excuses, even when there are excuses to be made.  And do not ever forget that pain is oblivious to intention.  If you caused it, it doesn’t matter what you meant to do, the hurt is just as real.  You should take your responsibility and man up to it.

Admitting a mistake will never tarnish your reputation as much as refusing to own up to one you did not intend.

Count on it.

March 17th, 2008 at 12:38 pm
5 Responses to “The Golden Rule – plus some”
  1. 1
    Gerbil Says:

    That’s a fantabulously awesome piece of thinking right there.

  2. 2
    Cormac Says:

    Thank you. I’ve asked a lot of people that question, and heard a lot of different answers. Your’s was particularly thought provoking.


    P.S. We missed you at Gulf Wars.

  3. 3
    OS Says:

    Well said. Thank you.

  4. 4
    Will McNaughton Says:

    Back when I was an Apprentice, I used to give Peers the “Peer in the Headlights” test. Catch a Peer halfway in thier cups or trying to wind down from something stressful and ask them “What is honor?”

    The result is almost always priceless. An expression on thier face of “Oh shit, I’m supposed to KNOW this” followed by babbling.

    It didn’t work on my own Laurel, though. Master Saher has apparently had entirely too much time to spend thinking about this kind of thing.

    He didn’t claim to have a complete definition, but where you say “Do not make promises lightly, and when you do make them, treat them with the gravity they deserve,” he said:

    “Honor is where your words match your deeds.”

    From that I took, “Don’t make promises you can’t keep, and keep the promises you make.” Oh and, “If it comes out of your mouth or off of your pen/keyboard, it’s a promise.”


  5. 5
    Tracey Says:

    If they ever write an the official “How to do it Right in the SCA” handbook, I believe this should have a starring role in the first chapter. You learn a lot in the SCA, and there are times when what you learn there helps you be a better person in your real life. If more people took a second to THINK about their honor and how it affects others, maybe we would ALL be better people, in the Society and out.

    The main thing I took from your post: If you say it, think it, do it, then you sure better have the brass to own it.