To Honor Is to Give Life

by Mike McKinniss


What does it mean to honor someone?

Does it mean we humbly submit to that person under any and all circumstances?  Does it mean we revere that person and place her on some unassailable pedestal?

I don’t believe so, no.

Rather, to honor is to recognize and praise that which is truly valuable in a person without getting hung up on those elements that are unremarkable, unskilled, or even downright ugly about the person.

An example may serve to show what I mean.  At the end of April, President George W. Bush opened the customary presidential library on the campus of Southern Methodist University.  In reflection of the occasion, journalist Ron Fournier, recalled an incident in which he received a handwritten thank you note from the president.  While covering President Bush at a news conference in Germany, Fournier and a colleague stood when the president entered their presence.  Other journalists present remained seated.  Afterward, President Bush acknowledged the honor they paid the office of the president by standing.

Honor is standing when a president enters the room, especially when that figure’s politics contradicts your own.  It is the ability to praise, at least, the office, even if you find his policies deplorable.  If you were a fan of W, insert President Obamba’s name above and imagine yourself in the same scenario.  That’s what honor means.

Few of us, however, find ourselves in the presence of an authority like the president of the United States.  Perhaps, though, we find ourselves talking with the boss, about whose personal life we know a little too much.  Can you honor the person’s position or qualities as a boss that bring success to you and your company?  Perhaps you had, as too many do, an absent parent.  Can you honor, at the very least, the life that parent had a part in creating for you?  And can you do so without getting tied up in knots over the failings of that parent?

In this way, honor is a freeing posture for us when we pay it.  We no longer become hung up and held back by another’s faults and failings.  We no longer have to wallow in the ways others may have disappointed us in the past.  Honor frees us to move forward.

Honor also gives life to the one receiving it.  By having their virtuous and valuable qualities affirmed, a person receiving honor is inspired to continue investing in those same traits.  We do enough to beat ourselves up for the things we don’t do well or the things we don’t like about ourselves.  It’s refreshing and life-giving to hear someone tell us there’s something great about us.

So go ahead and pay out some honor this week.  Just tell someone they’re great at something.  Tell them you really respect the responsibility they carry.  And then leave it at that.  Don’t tell them what they could do better.  Just tell them what you appreciate.

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