Honour Forgotten

Giving Honour, which I have looked at in some recent posts, is a matter of the heart. We are commanded to give honour, not as an outward form but as a heart choice. The problem in our society is that we have lost the notion of honour and only the form remains.

In bygone eras the giving of honour was a matter of character training. Children and youth learned to hold people in a place of honour. From that heart to give honour the child would happily do the things that expressed the honour in their heart.

When I was a child, and that wasn’t so long ago in historical terms, children still called adults by a title, such as Mr Jones or Mrs Smith. We were taught to respect our elders. Adults could not be spoken to the way we would speak to another child in the school yard. We had to say, “Excuse me”, when we wanted their attention. We had to wait for them to give us their attention before speaking. And so it went.

In a generation before mine it was customary for children to remain silent in the company of adults. At the dinner table, for example, children were to sit quietly and not speak unless spoken to. This behaviour pattern expressed honour to the adults and humility and self-control on the part of the children.

In the middle of last century it was still considered reasonable for a wife to serve her husband. She might prepare a hot drink for him and fetch his slippers to make him comfortable.

When travelling in a bus or train children were to give up their seat to an adult and everyone would give up their seat for an elderly person.

Honour was given to adults, the aged, those who were in positions of responsibility, those needing care, and so on. However, many people only learned the form, and not the heart attitude of honour that went with it.

In a previous post I pointed out that honour is a visible process. I’m going to almost contradict myself here, by noting that it is possible to go through the external motions, but not actually have the right heart attitude.

What happened historically was that children were taught to do the right thing, but not to feel the right heart attitude. Giving up their seat to an adult was seen as a duty, like a chore, but not as an expression of honour for that person.

Wives were told to please their husband, but as a matter of duty, not as an expression of the honour that was to come from their heart.

Children were told to be silent but did not understand why. So they demanded to be heard and no-one knew how to deal with that.

The actions have all but disappeared, because the people trying to teach them only held them as duties and appearances that had to be kept up. When the actions were challenged or disobeyed the teachers could not come up with a compelling reason to reinstate the lost practices. The problem? The practices had become a hollow and empty form of the process that was remembered. The action prevailed for a season, without the true heart basis upon which the actions were built.

We need to rediscover ‘honour’ and that will be reflected in actions that express honour to others. But it starts in the heart. If a child despises their parent then forced acts of honour are vain. If a child has no heart for the elderly then they will resent having to give up their seat for those people.

Honour has been forgotten and needs to be rediscovered. I pray that the Lord give us grace to make that discovery and to change the way people behave because we are able to transform their hearts first.

Giving Honour is a Visible Process

Giving Honour is a Biblical mandate. We are commanded to give honour to those to whom it is due (Romans 13:7). We are also commanded to give honour to our father and mother (Exodus 20:12). Yet most westerners have no real idea what giving honour looks like.

I mentioned in a previous post that years ago Dr Dewberry prompted me to question if I gave honour to my dad. I could not answer the question one way or the other, since I really had no handle on what giving honour would look like. Recently I found my heart turned to this subject yet again and some light has been filtering through, so that’s what I want to share with you in my posts on this subject.

Giving Honour is a matter of the heart. Honour is something that comes out from the inside of us. It is not an external ritual but a heart commitment. Yet it will also be a visible process, since it will lead to external expressions of what the heart feels.

It is appropriate, we would all agree, that honour should be given to a ruler. In my childhood it was the practice at every picture theatre (movie house – or whatever they may be called in your culture) to play the Australian national anthem at the commencement of every movie screening. Music would fill the theatre and images of the Australian flag would brighten the room. We would all stand to our feet as an act of giving honour to our country and our monarch. Images of a youthful Queen Elizabeth II, sitting side-saddle on a decorated horse, would fill the screen. We were giving honour to our Queen.

This external act was supposed to be an expression of our heart attitude of giving honour. Similarly army personnel salute a superior officer. A judge is addressed as “your honour”. A police officer is addressed as “sir”. These external expressions reveal that we hold them or their position in honour.

Sadly western culture has slaughtered honour on the altar of individualism and hedonism. But I’ll wax lyrical about that in a later post. Let me take time here to reveal what giving honour might look like in a home.

A man enters his home after work and is confronted with a cacophony of rowdy sounds. A child confronts him and berates him for not being home sooner, since they needed some of his money to buy something they wanted. Another child demands to know where the father has placed something they have been looking for, since they are sure he had it last. On the bench is a note from his wife, advising that he will have to fend for himself, since she decided to go shopping with some friends and would eat out.

What are the evidences of honour in that scenario? Do we see anyone giving honour?

Since the Bible commands us to give honour, what would a home look like where honour was embraced at a heart level? Maybe it would look like this…

A father arrives home from work to be greeted by his attentive and quiet children who take care of his bag and coat. The children remain quiet, so as not to disturb their father. Refreshments have been prepared the way dad likes them, to soothe him. A report is given to him of all matters that he should be apprised of, since he is the one who is responsible for all the members of the household. Several children respectfully give him their report on their day, so they can share with their dad, but also to be sure that he knows things which he might not otherwise find out about.

When the dinner is ready there is a special seat at the head of the table for dad. He is served first and the children are respectfully quiet, taking their lead from the dad’s questions and directions.

Now, without going any further, does that not strike you as a stark contrast to the first scenario? And aren’t you just a little bit inclined to think of the second scenario as being a bit too ‘old fashioned’?

It’s interesting that we relegate giving honour to some past era. It is now out of fashion. It is almost absurd. So let me take my illustration a little further.

The wife is asked by a friend to head off for a fun shopping trip with some surprise visitors. The wife thanks her friend for the invitation but explains that her husband will be home in an hour and she has several things to prepare. The friend suggests that the wife do just as the friend is doing, “Make hubby fend for himself for a change”. The wife declines, explaining that it would be wrong to set that example for her children.

The friend reacts to this. “For crying out loud, you aren’t still thinking you owe your husband something, are you? You know what men are like! They need to be put in their place every so often. If I gave my husband special treatment he’d be likely to expect it all the time.”

The wife explains that she promised God to give honour to her husband, since the husband is God’s gift to her. She explains that she also promised to train her children to give honour to their dad, and so she must be the first to give a positive example. She further explains that her husband is only an ordinary man, and he has no special qualities that earn him such honour. It is simply that God requires it of her and that it is her special gift to her husband.

That’s why I mentioned the visible process in the title of this article. Giving Honour is a Visible Process. If you have honour in your heart it will be seen in your actions.

I did not know how to give honour to my dad, because I grew up in a culture that was throwing off the old fashioned ideas of honour and other Victorian values. It was somehow noble to be arrogant. It was part of the evolutionary advancement of our society to be big enough to move beyond those childish rules and regulations of a simpler and less developed age. Wow! What arrogance and deception was being foisted on us.

Giving Honour is now finally filtering through to me. Maybe you’ve understood it all your life. Next time I’ll share about how the person and the position impact the whole honouring process.
(Honour is the English spelling, while Honor is the American spelling. So this article could just as well have been called “Giving Honor Is a Visible Process” and I could have said, “Honor your father and mother”. Please excuse my default to the spelling of my schooling. The American form may be simpler, but it just looks ‘wrong’ when I write it. I pray my American friends can tolerate the fact that I actually enjoy being who I am, and that I decline the offer of American simplifications.)