A few months ago I outlined eight strengths that will change your life. Those strengths were attitude, courage, character, duty, honour, relationships, passion, and tenacity. Each one of these strengths is critical to your success, and each one is linked in some way to all of the others. Without courage, you don’t have character. A bad attitude could mean you’re neglecting your duty. And without honour, all of these strengths could be in jeopardy. Today, I’m going to start writing about honour, and what it truly means.
Duty and honour are especially closely linked. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the modern English word duty originally came from the Latin word debutus, which means “to owe”. The word honour came from the Latin word honerum, which means “dignity, reputation, chastity, virtue, courtesy, and distinction”.
But let’s step away from the linguistics and look at how various people showed and talked about honour throughout history:
Christopher Columbus: Columbus is one of my personal heroes. Not only did he travel across the ocean to discover a new land, he did it without a map, on simple faith that eventually, he would reach safety. It’s hard to take risks—it’s scary and it’s a lot of work—but Columbus knew there was something that needed to be found, and despite the challenges, he went out and found it.
Mortimer Adler: This man was an American philosopher, educator, and author. Besides writing a long list of works on everything from education and capitalism to ethics and the arts, he also co-founded the Center for the Study of Great Ideas, which aims to encourage everyday people to realize the importance of philosophy. He explained the difference between duty and honour by putting it this way: “Duty usually involves obligations to others, but a man’s sense of honor may lead him to act in a certain way though the good of no other is involved. To maintain self-respect, he must respect a standard of conduct which he has set for himself.” And based on his body of work, I suspect Adler held himself to a very strict code of conduct.
Lester Pearson: The Prime Minister who brought in Canada’s universal healthcare, the Canada Pension Plan, and the 40-hour workweek was no stranger to honour and duty. In Canada’s centennial year, he wrote some profound words that expressed the sense of honour that he wanted the country to uphold: “Our national condition is still flexible enough that we can make almost anything we wish with our nation. No other country is in a better position than Canada to go ahead with the evolution of a national purpose devoted to all that is good and noble and excellent in the human spirit.”
These are just a few examples of the people I admire for their sense of honour. But I want to hear from you. Who is the most honourable person you know. Why?