He was shot and killed immediately. Six months after leaving basic training, a bullet catches him in the head at la Drang. In two weeks he would turn 20. His young mother’s gloved hands grip the folded flag as the words,“honorable and faithful service.” are said for the third time this month in her small Tennessee town.
No one earns honor without suffering. And, the greater the sacrifice of one’s self, the higher the honor. In fiction, we admire the character who decides to “hold em off” while the others get away. He may have been the most sadistic villain, but his repentance is made complete by laying his life down for his new “friends.”
Whether you’re a villain or the hero, you both agree that justice must come to the one who betrays. The Judas’ who sell their friends, or worse, their loved ones into harm. Those who prey on innocence, kindness, trust. Whose motive is to relish the pleasure of another person’s suffering.
The world is unified, not by love, but by the common hatred of being betrayed. We live cautious, even fearful lives because the world is full of cheats and scammers. You can’t trust lawyers, or big corporations, car salesmen, church leaders, certain races or economic classes. The rich rob you behind your back and the poor stick a gun in your face.
The duality is that we hate betrayal but we love drama. Dramas are the most popular category of TV show and movies. The core of any drama is a betrayal. To keep things going, new and bigger betrayals unfold. The plot spirals down the path of depravity pulling viewers in deeper and deeper. Is this a form of sadism? What part of us is feeding off of fictional misery and conflict?
In society, we’ve come to accept the need to “get our hands dirty” for the greater good. We have the scales of justice in our view when we make compromises that will hopefully result in a better overall outcome. We lament the fact that we can’t just do what’s right. Honor is the higher calling that “living in the real world” causes to go unanswered.
As the years of life drift by, a person’s values shift from, exciting to reliable, from pretty to practical. We are concerned about our legacy. Parents and friends pass. In the memories, we sift through funny sayings, tasty apple cobbler, Christmas disappointments, and “that one time when…” in search of true gold – honor. How did this person display honor in their life?
Did mom leave for work before the sun and come home dog tired but still make it to every softball game? Did your high school friend fight and crawl back from addiction to a stable and productive life? Did a husband volunteer to sacrifice his career for his wife’s? Did an older brother quit the wrestling team to spend time with his little sister battling leukemia? Did a neighbor leave his startup because his partner was taking unethical shortcuts?
One honorable decision can leave a permanent imprint on another person’s soul. Honor inspires honor. Love inspires love. Hate inspires hate. Love and hate are subjective. No ten people will agree about either. But, all people of any culture can see and feel when they are shown honor or when a person does an honorable thing. It’s human currency. It holds value forever. Honor builds bridges. It heals. It inspires.
But honor is difficult. It goes against the pervasive “me” culture we now live in. Does a father grasp his teen son squarely by the shoulders and say, “I want you to become a man of honor.” Do leaders display the type of leadership that calls us to follow honorably? Or, are we in a haze of compromise, betrayal and self-seeking that leaves us uninspired?
Honor still calls. Not just from funerals or work anniversary parties. It calls from the depths of our core as humans. “Honor me!” A wife’s soul screams to a neglectful husband. “Honor me!” The undercompensated worker shouts. “Honor me!” The refugee yells through the border fence. “Honor me!” The wrongfully imprisoned man cries from his cold cell. “Honor me!” A daughter pleads to a distrustful father as she strains for independence.
Show honor. Live honorably. Celebrate honor. It is not a religious or political solution. There are no financial or status requirements. Honor is a path of self-sacrificing decisions that are often obvious but obscured by what is temporary and easily gratifying. Push through, not because of what you will gain but because of what you will give.