My Personal Code of Honor

For let the gods so speed me as I love
The name of honor more than I fear death.

--Shakespeare, Julius Caesar I.2

  1. I will be honest at all times; I will not lie, cheat, or steal.
  2. I will be clean in body, mind, word, thought, and deed.
  3. I will protect, defend, support, and serve my family and friends.
  4. I will be merciful to those in need, and offer help when I am able.
  5. I will greet strangers hospitably and treat them fairly.
  6. I will give no comfort to those who prove themselves enemies.
  7. I will not return dishonor with dishonor.
  8. I wlll not allow an insult to honor to pass unchallenged.
  9. When I am wrong, I will promptly admit it, and seek to remedy my error. But I will not be swayed by faulty appeal, however passionate.
  10. I will fulfill every commitment that I make.
  11. I will strive to excel in all that I do.
  12. I will, in my life, seek to fulfill a great quest.
  13. I will uphold honor to those around me, and never fear to speak openly of honorable matters.
  14. I will take full responsibility for the consequences of my actions. When responsibility appears to fall upon a group of which I am part, I will examine the issue and either take full responsibility alone, or none.
To save our imperiled honor everything
must be sacrificed, even virtue.

-- Jean Racine, Phaedra III.3

Naturally, because it is the modern way, many readers will demand that I explain, qualify, and justify these points of honor. Entire books could be written about any one of the three terms of just the first point. I do not wish to discourage discussion of the meaning of this code, but I feel that most who read this and present objections are looking for loopholes. There are none. This code of honor is absolute. If you are wondering if it applies in a given situation, it probably does. It is not abrogable in case of pique, inconvenience, or public perception.

This code itself contains all possible qualifications. Of course, your notion of, say, personal cleanliness may vary from mine. Once I get to know a stranger, even a little, he may pass quickly into the category of enemy. I challenge insults to my honor and that of others, but I do not insist on a duel. And I do not, without provocation, stand on a public bus and lecture my fellow passengers on the meaning of honor. It is not always immediately obvious where honor lies.

It is not possible to be honest when treating with some entities, such as governments; the way they are constructed does not permit them to absorb the truth. For instance, when I am presented with a form containing a one inch long box demanding my occupation, it is not possible for me to be honest. I do not have a single occupation, to begin with; and any remotely accurate description of my occupations could not fit into the space provided. When treating with entities that are unable to accept truth, it is not possible to lie.

My code is perfect and absolute, but I am human, corrupt, and fallible. I often fall short of my code, which is one reason why the point about error and remedy is so important. Sometimes, I am driven to fail my honor under the pressure of circumstances, but this must never be taken as an exception to the rule. Such failure is not "honorable-because"; it is merely expedient. I am often moved to review all the decisions I have made which lead to such failure, and find I need to restructure my life in order to avoid such desperate conflict in future. This is particularly true in regard to commitments; I have changed my life a great deal so as to avoid being led to make commitments I cannot keep.

It is not possible to give a reason for adherance to a code of honor. It is a basic principle, an axiom. A code of honor is what distinguishes man from beast. The point of a great quest is not the goal itself, but the manner in which quest exalts the human spirit.

We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard...

-- John F. Kennedy, speech at Rice University (1962)
-- thanks to JFK Library and Museum

All these points are equally important; none have priority. However, I feel that the first and last points are key to maintaining the rest. There are many ways to be dishonest, and I seem to learn new ways every day. All must be avoided. Honesty to oneself is critical. Personal responsibility is the cornerstone of civilization, and acceptance of it the mark of an adult. Group responsibility is a sham, and must be eliminated in concrete and in abstract.

Dishonorable persons present a great temptation. They often appear to have an advantage, in that their freedom of action is not restricted. It is vital not to descend to the level of the dishonorable opponent; victory thus obtained is hollow.

I cannot help all in need; many need help I cannot give, and many pitiable ones cannot be helped at all. Tragically, some of the neediest become my enemies when they seek what I cannot give. I feel I must be merciful, but I give them no comfort.

I don't believe that I myself have worked out all the implications of my code of honor. For instance, there is the matter of a family member who has proven himself my enemy. I have been trying for many years to understand where my honor lies with this man.

This is my code, and I do not propose to alter it for any reason. If you discover it useful to you, then you are most welcome to assume it. I urge all to do so! But I beg of you, please do not idle away your energies and mine seeking a modification of my personal code of honor.

(However, comments on my bombastic rhetoric are always welcome!)

Fame is something which must be won;
honor, only something which must not be lost.

-- Arthur Schopenhauer, The Wisdom of Life (1851)
-- thanks to