Honor and Coping

Is personal honor something that can help you cope with stress? I bet you don’t usually associate honor with coping. I mean, when was the last time you heard someone say, “I’m having such a hard time coping with the stress in my life. I guess I need to be more honorable”? Probably never, right? Well, maybe it’s time to make personal honor a part of your coping plan.

What is honor anyway? The Cadet Honor Code at the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY, reads simply: “A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.”

The Honor Concept at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD states: “Midshipmen are persons of integrity: They tell the truth and ensure that the truth is known. They do not lie. They embrace fairness in all actions. They ensure that work submitted as their own is their own, and that assistance received from any source is authorized and properly documented. They do not cheat. They respect the property of others and ensure that others are able to benefit from the use of their own property. They do not steal.”

Honor. It’s easy to think of in military terms, and that is why the notion plays such a large role in the mission of our military academies.

But honor can also be an integral part of living your daily life because it will help you cope with everyday challenges. How so? Personal honor will help you to critically evaluate information that comes to you each day. Honor will also help you make a plan of action that will allow you to live your life interacting with yourself and with others in a way that helps you to avoid narcissistic actions, and look in the mirror with satisfaction at the end of each day.

“Wow!” you think, “That sounds great. But how do I make those things happen?” It’s simple, really. Just remember that effective coping rests on a tripod: Acceptance of what you do, Accountability for the consequences of what you do, and taking Corrective Action to improve the quality of what you do. Living a life of Honor will help you build that tripod as you critically examine your daily life.

To conduct a critical examination of yourself, consider some basic questions – ones that deal with honor – you might ask yourself on a regular basis:

“Do I try to deceive and manipulate others for my own selfish ends?”

“Do I care when I see others being deceived?”

“Are my actions based on selfish entitlement to gain unfair advantage of others?”

“Am I able to understand how others feel when they are troubled?”

“When I consider my actions toward others, do I ask myself how I would feel if I were at the receiving end of those actions?”

Keep in mind that you also have a right to challenge others so you can vaccinate yourself against excessive dependency on them. Thus, you should also ask “honor questions” about actions others direct at you:

“Do they try to deceive and manipulate me for their betterment?”

“Do they seem to care about my feelings?”

“Are their actions based on selfish entitlement to gain unfair advantage over me?”

“These things they ask of me…how would they feel if I asked the same of them?”

Asking such questions can engage you in the critical thinking required for resisting excessive dependence on others, and facilitating your self-actualization.

Effective coping with stress requires personal empowerment, independent thought and action, personal autonomy, empathy and sensitivity for others, and service to others. Blind obedience and dependency on others will make such coping impossible. In the final analysis, only you can challenge and judge yourself.

And remember: When it comes to effective coping, traits like honor, integrity, and character are always “in”; narcissism is always “out.” When you see the latter, whether in yourself or in another, reject it like you would any other poison.

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