4 February 2019

What does it mean to act with Honour?

I recently read an article on Honour and thought excerpts were worthy of sharing with you.

Traditional honour consists of having a reputation judged worthy of respect and admiration by a group of equal peers who share the same code of standards. In primitive times, these standards were based on strength and courage. In the medieval period, outward integrity and chivalry were added to these primal qualities. In the 19th century, the stoic-Christian honour code drew from the philosophy of ancient Greece and the faith which gave the code its name, by seeking to form a new kind of honour; one that combined ancient bravery with character traits like industry, sincerity, chastity, self-sufficiency, self-control, orderliness, and dependability. In the 20th century, traditional honour unravelled as urbanisation and anonymity dissolved the intimate, face-to-face relationships that honour requires. Some argue individual feelings and desires have been elevated above the common good of society at the same time a shared idea of what constituted that common good was lost. This completed honour's transformation from wholly public and external to completely private and internal. In this example, honour became a concept almost entirely synonymous with personal integrity.

Honour is the moral imperative of men and women; obedience is the moral imperative of children.

Honour based on respect is a superior moral imperative to obedience based on rules and laws. When you are a child, you do the right thing out of obedience to authority, possibly out of the fear of punishment. As one matures, you begin to see that the world does not revolve around you, that you belong to groups larger than yourself, and with this discovery comes a new awareness of the needs of that group and how your behaviour affects others. This change in perspective should shift your motivation in doing the right thing from obedience to authority, fear of punishment, to respect for other people.

For example, as a boy I did chores because I had to, and I didn't want to get in trouble with my folks. As I grew into a young man and still today, I did them, because I respected my parents. I came to understand that I was part of a family and had a duty to keep the household running and  pull my own weight.Today, I still help out due to the love and respect I have for my parents.

The latter point is the key to the superiority of honour as a moral imperative. Operating out of honour rather than obedience means realising that you have a role to play in helping a group survive and thrive. That your actions directly correlate to the group's strength or weakness. When people function out of rules and laws, they do the bare minimum they can without being punished. When they function out of honour, they seek to contribute and add further to the strength of the group to the best of their abilities.

Part of the reason that honour is a virtue rather than merely a state of affairs is because showing concern for the respect of your peers is a show of loyalty and indication of belonging. Only two years ago, School Captain, Denver Quantrill (OSC 2016), spoke at Assembly about being a "Man of Honour". I know this because, in many different interviews I have been involved in since, the boys referenced Denver's speech and spoke about what it meant to them. The notion of Honour is not lost on us in today's society nor here at Scotch College.

Acting with honour, contributing to society, to one's School and acting with respect for all is a strong part of the College's message. I encourage us of all to acknowledge these virtues in our boys.

Mr Dean Shadgett
Head of Senior School