I figured out in my teens that I would rather lose honourably than win by cheating. If everything went wrong, in any aspect of my life, I wanted to know that I’d be climbing out of the rubble with my honour in one piece, even if pride and flesh were bruised in the process. I decided that the ends never justify the means, and that instead the means should support the desired end in every way. I have stuck to this ever since.
When it comes to dealing with other people, of course I sometimes disagree or dislike, but I think there’s a lot of scope for having difference without there being any dishonour. People acting to the best of their ability based on their best understanding of what is called for, are honourable, it doesn’t matter if I like the outcome or not. Honourable people make mistakes. They get things wrong, misjudge, briefly act in haste or rage. But when an honourable person fails in an entirely human way, they apologise, make amends and learn from it.
Generally speaking I would rather say that a behaviour is dishonourable, rather than a whole person. For druids, honour is essential, and there is no worse accusation to make than saying a person is without honour. A person can be selfish and still act honourably – enlightened self interest is just that. A person can be foolish, naïve, confused, misled, and a host of other things that make them wrong, but not dishonourable. I’ve been giving a lot of thought today to trying to define what would make a person, rather than their actions, dishonourable, and this is what I’ve come up with.
The dishonourable person knows, to some degree that they are in the wrong, and they are at ease with this. They almost certainly believe that them getting their own way is more important than anything else and in this, the end justifies the means. More than this, the truly dishonourable person takes delight in their ability to use and control others. Might is right, he who shouts the loudest, carries the biggest stick and hires the sharpest lawyers should have the power, in the eyes of the dishonourable. Whatever gives them status or advantage is often understood by them to morally justify their position. They consider themselves entitled.
The dishonourable person enjoys lying, and takes delight in winning by cheating. If they manipulate resources out of others, bully others into serving or fearing them, this gives them pleasure. The causing of emotional or physical pain is also a source of delight to the dishonourable person. They find it funny to watch others suffer, to refuse to give help, to deny necessary things. A person who has no honour, has no heart, no compassion and no humanity.
The worst thing we can say of another human being is that they have no honour. We should only say this when we are in no doubt, but when it is blatantly true, we should not be afraid to speak it. Letting the dishonourable person go unchallenged enables and facilitates what they do. It may even encourage their belief that they are right, entitled and justified. It is important to speak up, speak out, and not to ignore. We have to call people to account for their behaviour.
All of us have access to social media and local news. We also have access to the police. If you think a person, or an organisation is acting dishonourably, and you have good evidence, then speak up. In silence, we help them. Dishonourable behaviour can be tackled at an individual level – and should be. Dishonourable people have to be dealt with at a community level.
I can’t imagine living without honour. I cannot imagine taking joy in pain or delight in control, but I’ve seen it done. A life without honour is also a life without real relationships, without self respect, or any kind of soul. I pity anyone who exists in so mean a way, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to tolerate it.