Honor has a lot of different meanings, from high respect, to privilege, to moral sexuality, but through the many years the thought of honor existed, “The term honor has always been a word used to describe men and women of high moral worth or great achievement”(Honor). An honorable person is a selfless person, one that can be trusted, a person who you can depend on, a person who will always do the right thing and will never let anyone down. People of earlier times were taught honor from a young age and to be honorable was their goal in life.
Unfortunately, as time goes on, the value and importance of honor is decreasing drastically. As people’s moral values and beliefs change, and so do their views on honor. Honor has changed a lot over time and continues to do so as time goes on. Long ago, honor, although it applied mainly to men, used to be a vital and extremely important thing to people. People lived their lives with a goal of living each day in such a way that their name would not be dishonored. As The Art Of Manliness tells us, “Honor lost was manhood lost”(Manly Honor). This is to say that a man without honor was, figuratively speaking, not seen as a man at all.
A person that would commit a dishonorable act, brought dishonor, shame, and embarrassment not only to himself, but to his entire family. “Because honor was such a central aspect of a man’s masculine identity, men would go to great lengths to win honor and prevent its loss” (Manly Honor). Throughout different cultures and different time periods, manliness and honor have been inseparably tied together and the meaning of honor for men differed greatly from the meaning of honor for women. Because women had very few rights and privileges, a woman’s honor consisted of her chastity and her obedience to either her father or husband.
An honorable women was one that obeyed her father or her husband, one that fulfilled her duties around the house, one that took care of the family and one that was never seen with another man. However, as time went on, honor has changed for both men and women. As more and more things become allowed and people are finding different ways to acquit for their wrong ways, honor is now taken unseriously and in a joking manner. There are two main types of honor present in a society, horizontal honor and vertical honor.
According to Frank Henderson Stewart, and author at the University Of Chicago, “Horizontal honor is defined as the right to respect among an exclusive society of equals [… ] Vertical honor, on the other hand , isn’t about mutual respect, but is rather about giving praise and esteem to those ‘who are superior, whether by virtue of their abilities, their rank, their services to the community, their sex, their kinship, their office of anything else” (Stewart p. 59). However, today, there is no distinct definition to what honor is. Today’s definition of honor does not capture what the concept of honor used to be.
As new generations grow, the values and teachings of the previous generations are forgotten. Because of this, society begins to forget the rules and unspoken laws that used to be so important; elders are no longer respected, children are disobedient and no one takes into the consideration the advice of their wise elders. People have forgotten about honor and respect is no longer given, except for a few pockets of society like the military, fire departments, and criminal gangs. As time has changed and everyone has became more equal, respect and honor is also given equally.
People learned to treat each other neutrally and therefore the importance of honor and people’s high moral worths and great achievements have faded away with time. What once used to be of such high importance and seemed honorable is now not acknowledged and therefore people’s motivations no longer include an honorable way of living, but instead people strive for other things such as money, fame and power. Even just within the boundaries of America, from when the mighty civilization was established to current time, the original principles, values, beliefs and moral worths have changed greatly.
Honor is basically now seen as a good characteristic or trait but nothing more than that. In earlier days, american culture was something that was quite significant. American honor can be seen as early as when the pilgrims settled in what is now known as the 13 original colonies. When America was first established, our founding fathers swore to their own concepts of honor which America was supposed to be built upon. These concepts included christianity and freedom. Sadly even those concepts have been manipulated and in current time, America is far from christian and the term freedom can be questioned.
Today these concepts of honor, although they have been modified, can still be found and summarized with the term patriotism. In other words, true american honor is showing love toward your country and having willingness to sacrifice for it. American honor is often times associated with the flag and serving your country. When thinking about true american honor, places like the military, fire departments, and criminal gangs come to mind. In other words, honor can be clearly seen in groups where honor has to be earned and is not just given.
Although you can not find “american honor” throughout american society, you can still find it those places and this is because to have honor, there has to be a sense of respect or “horizontal honor” between the exclusive society of equals. To have honor anywhere there has to be a sense of respect between all the people. Every human being has to show respect toward another and this is the first step to being honorable. Once this mutual respect is reached, there has to be a sense of respect between the subordinates and superiors, or in other words “vertical honor”. This is when honor is truly reached.
The reason for the lack of this true american honor in society lies within the relations people have toward each other. Alexander Welsh, a graduate from Harvard University, makes the case that for vertical honor to exist, horizontal honor must first be present. Without a baseline of mutual respect among equal peers (horizontal honor), winning praise and esteem (vertical honor) means very little. Because throughout America there are things like discrimination, racism, and inequality this american honor can only be found in certain disciplined areas like the armed forces.
Honor however is not the same everywhere and beliefs and values vary from culture to culture. Some cultures put a lot more emphasis on honor and are willing to go alot further in the name of honor than others. The Japanese people, for example, are a people that with strong emphasis on virtue. Around the time of World War Two, the Japanese people, after realizing that their troops were no match for their enemies, came up with a special attack unit now known as the Kamikaze Pilots. This unit consisted of dedicated pilots whose mission was to use themselves as ammunition and crash themselves into their enemies.
This act of suicide they justified as Honor. It was believed that dying for your emperor and for your country would be a glorious and honorable death. It is insane to believe that in the name of honor people agreed to this act of suicide. According to research done by Justin McCurry, “By the end of the war, more than 3,800 pilots had died” (McCurry). When interviewing former kamikaze pilot Horiyama, Horiyama justifies his actions when he says, “We didn’t think too much [about dying], we were trained to suppress our emotions. Even if we were to die, we knew it was for a worthy cause.
Dying was the ultimate fulfillment of our duty, and we were commanded not to return” (McCurry). In other words, for the Japanese people dying in the name of honor was simply the right thing to do. In our modern day society this act of obtaining honor seems insane and uncalled for but this shows how the importance of honor varies for one country to another. For the Japanese nation, to be dishonored would be the end of the world. They would dishonor their family name, their descendants, and they would be looked down upon by everyone.
In today’s world, honor is not taken seriously and its value is simply lost amongst the midst of time. Honor has changed a lot over time and the value of being honorable no longer exists. Because people have grown so distant from God and no longer follow the original commandments and rules set for them, they, on their own, have distanced themselves from being honorable. As sin becomes more popular, and evil more acceptable throughout society people begin to hate each other and themselves. They lower themselves in their own eyes and this make becoming honorable impossible. “Honour is the value of a person in his own eyes, but also in the eyes of his society.
It is his estimation of his own worth, his claim to pride, but it is also the acknowledgment of that claim, his excellence recognized by society, his right to pride. ”(Manly Honor). In conclusion, honor has changed greatly over time and the importance and value of being honorable has decreased drastically. Honor is something people used to fight so hard to obtain and tried so hard not to lose but no matter what society says or thinks, honor is the value of a person in his own eyes, so as long as a person fights for what he believes in and continues to hold his values, no one else can take his honor away from him.
Gentlemen; my honor lies in no-one’s hand but my own, and it is not something that others can lavish on me; my own honor, which I carry in my heart, suffices me entirely, and no one is judge of it and able to decide whether I have it. My honor before God and men is my property, I give myself as much I believe that I have deserved, and I renounce any extra”(Stewart p. 51).