Is Honor Black and White?

Is Honor Black & White?

Many people believe that honor is one of those few things in life which is black and white. This belief is both true and false. True in the sense that every action can be classified as either being honorable or dishonorable. Just as a door is either open or shut, our actions are either honorable or dishonorable. It is one or the other. That is just the way it is.

Now, you may argue that a door can be shut, but just not shut all the way. And you would be right, but if a door is not shut all the way, it is still technically open. All that is left to discuss is the degree to which that door is open or closed. It may be 99% closed, but 99% closed is still open by 1%. It is the same way with honor. If an act is only partly honorable, it is a dishonorable act.

Okay, I have proved that honor is black and white, right? Not so fast…What I said is that actions can be classified as either honorable or dishonorable, but honor itself is definitely not a black or white issue. Honor is much more complicated than that. Honor is a term that many people seem to throw around, but few really understand what it actually means. A lot of people will preach that honor can be defined in black and white generalities, but that is false thinking.

A countless number of acts that appear foolish
have secret motives that are very wise and weighty.
La Rochefoucauld

These same people will say that it is always dishonorable to lie. Well, let’s examine that statement. Is it dishonorable for the cop to lie to a drug dealer when he is doing undercover work? I don’t think so. Was it dishonorable for the family, who was hiding Jews during Nazi Germany, to lie to German soldiers about the fact that they were helping these people? Of course not. So lying must not always be a dishonorable act. By the same account, truthfulness is not always an honorable act. Wait, don’t start throwing rotten tomatoes at me yet…

Think about it! If the same family I used in the example above was truthful to the Nazi soldiers, this family would have signed the death sentence for the Jews which they were hiding. Would this be an honorable act? Not in my book. But they told the truth and telling the truth is an honorable act, right? Not always…

To generalize is to be an idiot.
William Blake

Actions must be judged according to intentions.
Arab Maxim

An action is always honorable or dishonorable, right or wrong, but you cannot categorize each individual action as always being honorable or dishonorable, or always being right or wrong. See the difference? The intentions of the individual determine whether or not an act is honorable or not, not the act itself. That is right…the same exact act may be honorable in one instance and dishonorable in another. Honor is not black and white.

Our own heart, and not other men’s opinion, form our true honor.
Samuel Coleridge

You are a man; do not dishonor mankind.
Jean Jacques Rousseau

Warrior Wisdom


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