“Honor is given, but respect is earned.” Craig Groeschel
My father and grandfather grew up in different eras than I did. They didn’t come of age exchanging memes and parody videos. Their political leaders might have been lambasted via a political cartoon in the newspaper or occasionally by a standup comic. But that was bad as the dishonor went.
When Honor Was Given Freely
They grew up in an era when you honored the person based upon the position they held, not based upon your personal feelings for the person. Honor didn’t need to be earned — it was given freely. This wasn’t only true for political figures, but for religious, business and community leaders too. I heard my father and grandfather regularly offer charity and grace, even to those they disagreed with or whose decisions negatively impacted them.
My grandfather is one of my heroes. He earned a Silver Star fighting in World War II. He came home from Europe to start a small business. He was married to my grandmother for nearly 70 years and he worked into his 90s. He died a few years ago at the age of 93.
My dad taught me more than any professor or teacher. He wasn’t in the armed services, but he’s held the same job for over 36 years, showing incredible grit, perseverance, and integrity. When I spoke at his 30th anniversary in that role, I heard from person after person who remarked at the way my dad carried himself and served others.
Each of these men modeled honor and respect, and many returned that kind of honor and respect to them in kind.
Humiliation Trumps Honor
In thinking back to these men and the generations they represent, I’m reminded of the dirth of honor in our culture. We now live at a time where honor is a foreign concept, yet humor is maybe the highest value. We’ll do anything for a laugh, like or retweet. As a result, we end up sacrificing honor for the sake of humor.
It takes a lot less work to tear something down than it does to build it or rebuild it.Tweet
Sometimes, honor can be a way to cover up for someone who is hurting others or abusing their power. Honor can be twisted to mean a leader is never confronted, only empowered. And in some honor cultures, dysfunction gets promoted and perpetuated.
But that’s not the kind of honor I’m talking about. Those examples of “honor” need to be torn down and discarded.
The kind of honor I’m describing is the value which shows the person their mistakes without requiring their shame and humiliation in the process. This reminds all of us that everyone has worth and value, even when their actions have failed to reflect that kind of perspective.
If our culture is good at anything, though, it’s good at shame, humiliation, and utter destruction. We can take down a legacy in a few hours. We can destroy a lifetime of work in less than a workday. The lives of people have been destroyed for very human mistakes.
Mobs online have been responsible for bringing heinous patterns to light, demanding accountability. Certain legacies, built on unhealthy patterns and the abuse of many, deserve to be destroyed. But, the destruction almost becomes a public scapegoating and gloating.
Words have power, but so does humiliation. And if we only know how to shame and humiliate, if we don’t know how to honor too, then is it possible we only know how to hurt people and not heal them? All of these people can be held accountable or taken down. But can they be rehabilitated? Can they be healed and restored? Do we know how to do that?
Creating Change Through Honor
Many have suggested that honor in public leads to influence in private. Honor doesn’t mean endorsement or agreement. But if we want to achieve real influence and change, honor gets us much further than humiliation.
Because anyone can point out where others have stumbled and fell. It takes much more to honor, heal, and restore. It takes a lot less work to tear something down than it does to build it or rebuild it. It takes a lot more to honor someone than it does to make a joke about them.
My father and grandfather taught me that turning someone into a joke does far less to create change than showing them honor.