A Thing Called HonorI would speak of a thing called honor if I could but decide where to begin. For tales of great battles come to mind first. Replaced by the blood of another given to save a life. Whether of one’s child, the dying patient, or some stranger because of a simple belief: a belief that giving one’s own blood might somehow make another’s life easier.

If we speak of this, then we might also speak of those who have given their organs in transplants. Some still living, and some in their final moments of life. Would I make such a choice? Or would the selfishness of my personal temple be such that I could not part with the pieces that could no longer use?

And if we talk of honor, we might consider the “Honor Code” of any number of Colleges and Universities. Of West Point. Annapolis, and any number of lesser known institutions that produce officers and gentlemen. How far have we fallen that precious words seem to have lost their savor to so many?

I have been reviewing movies these past few months. Foreign and Domestic films of various languages. I have seen the lost rituals of the Samurai, the rigidity of the Tongs, the purported secret combinations of the Illuminati and hidden rituals of the Knights Templar. In each of these films, as with those of today’s genre, we have reflections of one or two people whose values are uncompromising. Those who would rather be put to death than succumb to that which would otherwise putrefy their very souls.

A thought, taken into one’s life as a rule. One that serves an honorable purpose. One that represents the legacy of a person’s soul. The reason a person keeps his/her promises when others fail to meet that test to them.

What gifts rule your life — that transcend mortal words? What promises and covenants have you made to yourself, your spouse, or to God, that will never be broken? Is this the legacy that you pass on to your children, or to those close enough to understand your mind? If not, then what do you believe in? Money. Fame. Or has your religion changed to that of one of a thousand different vices ensnaring the souls of man?

What was the last movie that made you cry? What was the last hero you cheered for in any theater or motion picture house? And… why did you cheer?

I watched Tom Cruse in Shogun the other day. I listened intently to the phraseology. I felt the rise and fall of my chest in battle – both on the field, and in quiet moments of personal discovery. And so it is with a hundred movies that demonstrate how one person’s choices affect whole generations to come. Who can forget the first “Die Hard” movie? Not just the thrillingly irreverent manner in which Brice Willis’ character John McLain dealt with the bad guys. But also the lighthearted banter of what really goes into a “Twinkie.” (May the “Twinkie” now rest in peace.)

So what can I tell you of that thing called honor? Honor is demonstrated by how we each choose to live our lives. Yes, I know that I stated that before. It bears repeating. No one but you can say why you make the choices you do. No one can understand your learning processes, your resolve, or the reasoning that comes when those close to you fail in their promises – only to have you stand firm in yours.

Will there ever come a time when the truth is fully known? Perhaps not in this life. But, to whom are you striving to prove something? If you know the truth, others worthy of your station will also. Even as a single word may never be spoken.

So, in this life, as people come to you for advice, think carefully. People love to have someone else tell them what to do. It is easier to place blame when that happens.

I haven’t been asked to give counsel on who someone should marry, so why should I give counsel on divorce. I haven’t been asked whether someone should take out a loan, so why should I decide whether they need to file bankruptcy as a means of escape. If I am asked to be a friend – that includes walking away from those who despitefully use you. It also means being there if they need a hand up from their fall. But it does not mean compromising your values and lowering yourself just because others have chosen to do so.

Whether in film and television, on the martial arts mat, or in everyday business, there are those who seek my advice. Will they take it? Sometimes. Will I be held accountable? Only if it doesn’t turn out the way they had hoped.  You see, personal responsibility means accepting your mistakes. Understanding them so that you make better decisions the next time. But it also means removing people from your circle of influence once you realize that there is no trust remaining. That no personal honor remains.

People have the best of intentions. They set out with high hopes. But if the promises made at the onset are made for convenience sake, then there is no honorable circumstance in which you can thrive.

For this I tell young people, choose your friends carefully. But for those that subscribe to the principle that you must; “Keep your friends close, your enemies closer?”  I say; Keep your friends in honor and let your enemies find a new home far away from you.

You remain an example of something special each day. No matter what others may do, choose honor. Then sleep well. Even if you are housed in the depths of the Bastille.