The Honor Blog
Today is: Nov 18, 2019
Post From: Mar 4, 2018
Recently I was having a conversation with a good friend,
and he mentioned the concept of loyalty. Immediately I kicked
myself for not having said something about it in my book -
that is something which obviously deserves some exploration.
But then, that is the purpose of this blog - this gives me
a chance to explore some of the things which otherwise
would have appeared in
Part III of my book.
Aside: I should update this blog more often, and I will try. I feel as though I am letting down my two readers . . . :)
Anyway, hard on the heels of kicking myself for not saying something about loyalty in Part III, I began to wonder whether my oversight was more significant than that, whether I had missed something fundamental about Honor in not mentioning loyalty. That is, I wondered whether that suggested I was missing a virtue or something.
As I have reflected on the idea in preparation for writing this column, though, I have decided that I don't think I did - have a look at my logic and see whether you agree. That, after all, is my real purpose - as I mentioned in my 'Doubting Thomas' author's disclaimer. What I really hope is that readers will wrestle with these questions; even if they wind up disagreeing with me, our culture will be better for their efforts.
OK - enough of that.
The question here is how we relate the concept of loyalty to the framework in Reawakening Honor. It seems clear that loyalty is an honorable trait, that remaining true to friends is a good and moral thing to do. (As an aside, we should recognize that there are exceptions, situations in which blind loyalty is a mistake - the virtue of Wisdom helps an honorable person discern those instances. However, we are focusing on the general case in which the loyalty is deserved.)
It is important that the term loyalty is used almost exclusively to refer to situations in which a relationship is put to the test - situations in which one person would gain some benefit from sacrificing the relationship. Given that connection, I think the virtue which is most strongly represented by loyalty is Courage. It takes Courage to remain true to a relationship under pressure.
Of course, one of the characteristics of Courage is that it is complementary - it appears only when another virtue is tested. In this case, what is being challenged is the relationship - which makes clear that relationships are virtuous.
That is really important - an insight which bears repeating. Relationships are virtuous. Relationships are the part of our lives which do the most to bring out our humanity, to show our Honorable sides.
The virtues from which relationships are constructed seem pretty clear. A relationship is built on trust - that is, the virtue of Hope, because we trust the other person to behave honorably. Without that Hope, there can be no relationship. Also present in a good relationship are Compassion and Humility, since a participant must care for the other person, at some level, and must set aside his or her selfish desires in order to nurture the relationship.
Thus we see that relationships are built primarily of Hope, with Compassion and Humility, and that loyalty represents the virtue of Courage applied to the maintenance of those relationships.
What do you think? I continue to kick myself, because I cannot believe that I did not include a discussion of loyalty in Part III. However, I am glad for the chance to engage in that discussion here. It would not have been feasible for me to include everything which belonged in Part III, so this blog fills that need - the need to pursue an ongoing, free-flowing conversation about Honor.
However, I also want to return to the insight about relationships. Throughout the writing of the book, I struggled to find a way to articulate the critical importance of focusing on others. I do that in my daily life, too. One example is that I get very frustrated with the way electronic devices intrude on our lives - and I express that by trying to point out that computers were made to serve humans, that we are supposed to be humans first.
This way of viewing relationships feels like a real insight. It is not just that an 'other focus' makes honorable behavior possible. It is much stronger than that - the 'other focus' itself is Honor, it is a part of our purpose as humans.
OK - I still am struggling to articulate that, as I think you can see. I will work on it, and I hope you will look for ways to explore it with those close to you. I am going to look into ways for me to add a discussion board to this blog, so that we can do a little bit of that ourselves . . .