Now first, let me just say to everyone reading this article:
You already are.
You already are an honorable person! Or, rather, you have an honorable side TO you.
If you’re reading this, you probably WANT to be honorable, too. That’s fine, but the side of you who wants it probably isn’t as honorable as your truly honorable side is.
Let me explain. When we want something, basically we’re saying, “I don’t like the way things are. I want something else.” And there’s nothing wrong with that! – It’s important to be partial about what we let into our lives and what we disallow.
But then why did I say it’s more dishonorable if you WANT to be honorable? It’s just because the difference between honor and desire is all a matter of perspective.
Where desire says: “I want things to be this way”, honor says: “I recognize things are this way, and I can respect that. I don’t need to change it. I can live with or without it. I’ll act given how things actually are.”
In fact, you might call my version of honor, “steadiness”. Staying strong, calm, composed.
Honor in Defeat
For example, say you just lost a game of some kind that you wanted to win. Desire is the force inside you that wants to lash out at your opponent, throw things, and come up with excuses for why you lost. Honor, on the other hand, can be seen in any thoughts that, despite you wanting to win, it’s OK that you lost. It’s not as big of a deal to let the game go.
That sounds nice and all, but when we’re feeling our desire to change something, it’s hard to see from our perspective of honor. It’s almost as if honor, as I personified it above, doesn’t make any sense. We just want what we want, and not having it feels bad.
But no matter how strong your desires are, honor doesn’t disappear. And it’s not that you have to destroy your desires or something to get honor to appear – no. You just need to find honor. Real, non-imaginary honor. And the way to do that is to peel back your desires one at a time.
Before I show you how to do that, let me first address the question of why it’s important to look for honor at all. Think of it this way: while desire is in turmoil, honor is, in the same situation, peaceful and steady. Desire is trying to be an agent of change, honor is being a stable witness to what is. Finding your honor can help you to realize how you can be at peace even amid the most tumultuous of times.
Let me show you how to do that, now.
Exercise: Find your honor.
In this exercise you will be looking for your honorable side in a situation where you usually are feeling desire.
- Imagine an object of your desire. What is it? It can be a situation, a goal, a person, an inanimate object, anything.
- Feel your desire for it, however strong. But do stay with the exercise.
- In your imagination, see a version of yourself appear who’s feeling this desire. See them thrashing about, or drooling, or angry, or however they are.
- If you feel more desire in you trying to express itself in a different way from the first (like planning on how best to achieve your ends), repeat step 2-3 for each of them.
- See, in your imagination, as many of your desires as you can at once, the feelings and the way they’re expressed.
- Do you feel your honorable side emerging? If not, try to identify your desire to be an honorable person, and then put it with all the other desiring fellows you’ve imagined.
- Once you feel as though you’ve connected with the side of you who is honorable beneath all the desires, personify it, too. What does he or she think, say, feel, do? Just explore this imaginary honorable person in your mind.
- If any other feelings crop up in you, put them in your imaginary space as well, and see what happens!
See? You are honorable after all! But you also have a lot of crazy desires. And just because you found your honor doesn’t mean you’ve suddenly become 100% honorable, or have cleared away your desire. But at least you’ve got some perspective now. And you have a connection to a side of you who stays calm when things aren’t going great. Maybe not getting what you want will be a little easier to tolerate now – who knows.
If you have trouble with this technique or understanding what I’m talking about, drop me a comment. Even if I don’t post a lot, I check the site regularly.
Thanks for reading, and, until next time,
Wikisource Text of “The Frog-King, or Iron Henry”, a tale which I suspect may have something to do with distinguishing honor from desire.
A collection of quotations on honor – from BrainyQuote
How to (Really) Keep Calm and Carry On
The Deep Darkness of Desire
Becoming at Peace with Your Own Path
Beyond Morality: Beauty in the Ugliness
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