To be honourable is to be kind, genuine and empathetic without expecting a reward for your behaviour. It’s a rare combination of virtues, but with practice anyone can be honourable. Do you want to be the type of person who stands up for your beliefs instead of cowering, who rescues your friends when they need you, and who’s known for being an upstanding citizen? Start by doing little things, like showing up when you say you will or asking someone if they need a hand. When you practice living honestly in everyday ways, and letting people know you have their backs, being honourable will start to feel like second nature.
Developing a Sense of Honor
Be the person you say you are. It’s easy to be a pleasant person, walking around with a ready smile and a “hello” for everyone you see. But being honourable isn’t the same thing as being friendly. When it comes to honor, it’s more important to be authentic. Show the world who you really are, even if it come at the expense of your reputation for being “nice.” To be honourable, you’ve got to be trustworthy.
If you hide your real thoughts and feelings behind a masked expression, try taking off the mask and see what happens. Maybe people will be put off at first, but after awhile they’ll come to trust you more, since you’re revealing more of yourself to them.
This isn’t to say you should go around being surly, but try to be more expressive of how you really feel instead of sugarcoating everything to make social interactions easier or to try to get people to like you.
Do what you say you’re going to do. If you’re constantly backing out of social plans, or not showing up when you said you’d help out, work on your follow through. Maybe you really mean it when you say you’ll hang out with that old friend who keeps calling, but your actions speak louder than your intentions. Central to being an honourable person is ditching your flaky tendencies.
Every seemingly harmless white lie makes you less trustworthy in others’ eyes, and before long people won’t consider you reliable at all. Doing what you say you’re going to do, no matter how small, builds character and develops your sense of honor.
Give it some practice. Eventually you’ll hate the feeling of not following through, and you’ll stop making commitments you can’t stick with.
Strengthen your values. What do you believe in? In any given situation, how do you decide what’s right and what’s wrong? Having strong values is key to being honourable, since acting with honor means doing the right thing, even if others disagree with you. It can be really hard to figure out how to act with honor in any given situation. Your values are what you turn to for answers when there’s no one else you can ask. When you align yourself with them, you can be proud of yourself for having done your best, no matter what the outcome is.
Your values might be aligned with a certain religion or another belief system. Maybe your parents imparted strong values when they raised you. Try to examine your values to make sure you really believe them, since it’s hard to stand up for something when your gut tells you it isn’t really true.
If this concept is difficult and you’re searching for answers, try talking it through with people you see as wise, reading philosophical and religious texts, or attending spiritual services. Explore different value systems and compare their tenets with your life experiences to figure out what feels right.
Care about other people. The honourable among us really care about the people in their life. They’re the parents who work second and third jobs to make sure their kids have enough, the friends who refuse to let their pals get behind the wheel after a night of drinking. Honourable people show their deep love for others through their actions. If the people in your life don’t know you’ve got their backs, it’s time to start showing them that you do. Care about people outside of your inner circle, too. Acting honorably isn’t limited to only helping the people you know and love. What would you do if you were walking down the street and saw someone in need of help?
Question your boundaries. Sure, it’s hard to hand over change to every single person who asks. It’s not possible to help everyone you come across. But being honourable means seeing people as people, respecting their humanity, and giving the what little you have to offer.
Get rid of ulterior motives. If you’re honourable, you help people because you care, and you don’t expect to get paid back. When you do something kind, there’s no self-serving motive behind it; you’re driven by love. Think about the decisions you make every day, and decide what powers them. Only you know whether your interactions are tainted by motives you don’t want others do see.
For example, have you ever given advice that serves you instead of really trying to help the person? If your sister asks you if you think she should move to New York, and you really wish she would stay in town, don’t let your feelings taint your advice. Advise her to do what you think is best for her, not for you.
Don’t build up resentment about helping out, or wonder what you’re getting out of a given situation. If you don’t want to be doing something, you should stop doing it. It’s more honourable to be up front about how you feel than it is to secretly despise something you’re doing.
Work for what you want. Do you want a new car? A boyfriend? Some new clothes? You deserve all of these things, but don’t use shortcuts to get them. It’s so much easier to take the easy way out, but this usually requires hurting someone else, and if you do it often enough it’ll backfire. If you want something, work for it. It’s the honourable thing to do. Don’t steal or try to rip people off instead of paying what you owe.
Don’t shamelessly flirt with someone else’s tipsy girlfriend instead of forming an actual relationship with someone who’s available.
Don’t keep borrowing money from your friends and family instead of getting a job.
Don’t take credit for someone else’s idea instead of coming up with your own.
Speak the truth. Honesty and honor go hand in hand. Work on always telling the truth, whether it’s about your own intentions or an outside situation. It will certainly make you uncomfortable at times, and you might be subject to other people’s anger or hurt feelings. But ultimately, people will appreciate that you’re someone who tells it like it is instead of sugarcoating.
If there’s a situation in which you don’t feel comfortable telling the truth, just don’t say anything. It’s better than lying. Even so, it’s important to tell the truth as often as possible.
When it comes to the tiny lies we tell to spare feelings, you make the call. Just know that if you lie often enough, even in this small way (“No, that dress looks great!” or “Yes, I really liked your speech!”) people will stop trusting your opinion and begin to assume you’re just being nice.
Defend what you believe in. Developing your values is one thing, but standing up for them is quite another. It’s easy to argue with something in your head, but truly honourable people speak up and step in. Defending your values can mean any number of things, and it doesn’t always need to involve a big show. In little ways, you can behave honorably and set an example for other people.
For example, if everyone at work makes fun of a certain person when he’s not around, you could make it clear you don’t think it’s right. Sometimes just saying “I disagree” or even changing the subject every time it comes up is a way to make your opinion known.
Sometimes you’ll be faced with a bigger problem, and you’ll have to choose between standing up for what you think is right and keeping your job, or staying friends with someone, or upholding your reputation as a sweet and genial person. That’s when true honor kicks in, and hopefully all those times you were honourable in little ways will prepare you for the big decisions.
Come to people’s aid. If you were to draw a cartoon of an honourable person, it might look like a guy giving up his seat on the bus for an elderly person while helping a child carry his luggage and offering to front fare for someone who forgot change. These cliches all demonstrate ways to be honourable, and they’re all situations that could happen in real life and provide easy opportunities to be a little honourable. However, true honor is demonstrated when you’re called upon to do something you really don’t want to do, and you do it anyway.
For example, maybe your brother and his two dogs need a place to crash for three weeks after losing their house. Things will be pretty cramped, but he’s your brother, so you do it.
Or maybe you’re in the car on the way to airport to catch a flight to Venice for your honeymoon, and you witness a car run off the road and hit the guardrail. Even though it means you’re going to miss your flight, you stop and offer your assistance.
Never manipulate people. Part of being honourable is acknowledging the effect your words and actions have on other people. You have the ability to help, and you have the ability to hurt. Don’t mess with people’s emotions as a way to get what you want. It’s easy to do this without even realizing it, so try to be more mindful of the impact you’re having.
Don’t take advantage of weakness, like using someone’s illness to gain an edge on them.
Don’t be controlling of those around you. Let them make their own decisions.
Don’t guilt trip people into doing what you want.
Don’t lead people on by making them think you’re more emotionally involved than you really feel.
Ask for forgiveness when you have done something wrong, and forgive mistakes in turn.
Fight against hypocrisy.
If you fight for something and don’t do it yourself, you’re as much at fault for not doing that thing as anybody else is, perhaps more.
You may be attacked physically or emotionally.
Keep in mind that you may be wrong, and listen to others.
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Sources and Citations
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