Sid is great at honoring his superiors. He is deferential to a fault. He knows what’s expected of him, and he does a great job of living up to those expectations. Unfortunately, his relationship to his peers is different. He ignores those who disagree with him and sometimes is subtly sarcastic about them behind their backs. He lacks grace. And his conduct begs the question: Can we practice honor without grace? And if so, which value should have priority?
The Bible tells us to honor our parents. We’re told to honor our leaders.* We’re to pray for those in authority over us.** Certain positions, regardless of the quality of the person filling them, should evoke a respectful response from us.
Unfortunately, because our culture has become egalitarian and mistrustful of authority, this idea of honor according to position has fallen on hard times. Young people especially seem to struggle to understand the idea of positional authority. It follows that many would similarly not understand honor. The book A Culture of Honor was written to address this issue. A lot of our staff have found it helpful.
How we honor others
To properly honor someone, you need to know their position and their level of authority. When I met the Queen Mother in Swaziland, we honored her by removing our shoes and crawling into the room. When the King passed by, we had to make sure were lower than him as a sign of honor.
We honor the President by addressing him according to his title. Judges are referred to as “Your Honor.” You may honor your mother by holding the door open for her or seating her at the table.
Military people understand honor in large part because they understand position and authority. People in a hierarchical culture understand honor. Fail to extend honor and you may lose your place in the organizational chart.
We need to rediscover the principle of honor. As parents, when our children see our weakness, they stay in relationship with us because of the principle of honor. Honor helps ensure that society functions in ways that bless us all.