What images come to mind when you visualize Honor? Medieval knights jousting for the hand of a fair maiden? Sir Walter Raleigh laying his magnificent cape in the muddy street so his lady's feet don't get soiled? Soldiers riding off to war to defend the "honor" of their country?
A working definition of Honor is "respect or esteem that has been earned." Contemplate that for a moment. It would be very special to earn the respect and esteem of our family, our friends, our co-workers, our community, wouldn't it? If anything, it is of even more moment to honor yourself. Those who are successful and happy earn their own self-respect and self-esteem.
There is much more to Honoring yourself than simply having self-respect and self-esteem. Yet because the concept of Honor is so uncommon today, in daily conversation I often fall back upon the terms "self-respect" or "self-esteem" when I am briefly describing that special quality that defines the meaning of our lives.
In addition to respect, Honor also connotes a sense of nobility. If I Honor myself, certainly I respect myself and value my life, but there is more. When I Honor myself, I am confident of my being, and I am gentle with myself. I have nothing to prove to anyone else or to myself. My value is unquestioned.
Unfortunately, there is a risk of confusing Honor with self-importance – "pride" in its biblical sense. Ego is the "shadow" – the dark side – of Self-Honor. There is probably no human virtue that does not have a shadow side. The shadow of generosity is meddling. The shadow of serenity is complacency. Never diminish the value of a quality or emotion based on the negative effects of carrying that virtue to excess.
If you doubt the virtue in Self-Honor, remember what the flight attendant says: "Put your own oxygen mask on first." You are of no use to anyone else if you have not taken care of your own needs first. This includes your own emotional, as well as physical, well-being. In addition, your greatest value to your children, your family, your friends, and your community is the example you set, leading a great life that inspires those around you to emulate your being.
The quality of Honoring yourself, respecting yourself, valuing your purpose, your life-work, your very being, is a prerequisite to living many other aspects of an inspired life. Before you can forgive others, you must be a person whose forgiveness matters. Before you can have gratitude for your life, you must believe that your life has value. Before your choices have value, you must feel that you yourself have value. Before you can dream a great dream for your future, you have to believe that your future matters. Before you can build positive habits of resolve and commitment, before you can begin to live the Japanese proverb, "Fall seven times, stand up eight," you must believe that your life matters. Before you can celebrate your life, you must Honor it. And, before you can feel unity with, and Honor toward, Spirit and all creation, you must Honor yourself to feel worthy of that unity.
It is wonderful to feel your purpose, your value, your confidence and self-respect – that is, your Self-Honor. But, how to achieve Self-Honor?
There are two parallel and simultaneous paths to Self-Honor, belief and action.
Belief: Begin a daily practice of affirming the Honor of being yourself:
I Honor My True Self – I grant myself the Honor of being ME. I am unique in all time and space. I am beyond perceived scarcity, obligation, and the need for approval. I am Honored that Spirit has chosen to create ME.
Action: Even if you do not yet fully feel Self-Honor, live your life as if you did. This is somewhat like what Thich Nhat Hanh says about a smile, "Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy." LIVING life as one who possesses Self-Honor brings Self-Honor into being. Forgive as if you had the Self-Honor to forgive fully. Have gratitude for all of life as if Self-Honor had given meaning to your life. Design your life and persevere in bringing that design into being as if your Self-Honor had granted purpose to your life.
Self-Honor is the axle around which a great life revolves. It defines purpose and provides structure for the other pillars of a meaningful life.