Stack Dragon wrote in to comment on the last Byte-Sized Virtue episode:
I enjoyed your latest Byte-Sized Virtue on dishonor. I especially liked your discussion about how being honorable involves acknowledging deserved praise. I usually tend to shrug off compliments on my work (e.g., “It wasn’t that big a deal” , “Anyone could have done it”) as a means of trying to appear like I’m not seeking praise. What I have found, though, is that not accepting compliments often has the opposite of my desired effect. That is, the compliment giver is more likely to see me as ungrateful for not accepting their compliment. So the effect of negating their compliment is that I’m actually viewed as being less honorable.
Firstly, I’d like to say thanks to Stack for writing in; I always love hearing from people who’ve listened to podcast episodes. And in this case, what he said in his message inspired much of this episode.
Full disclosure: I’m definitely in the same boat as far as complements go…to the point that my wife sometimes has to chide me to just take the compliment. Because you’re right: not accepting what the other person is saying can, and often does, give offence in turn.
This touches on the virtue of Humility, too…in fact, the term “false humility” is one I’ve heard used. It isn’t humble, obviously, to elevate oneself unduly…to be the braggart. But neither is it humble to eschew accepting any praise or compliments that others offer.
Funnily, and perhaps fittingly, it would thus seem that Humility is at the core of what it means to practice Honor well.
There’s a well-known Catholic prayer — somewhat difficult to pray, actually — called the Litany of Humility. A while ago, I ran across a Thomistic variant of it, composed by a handful of friars, that I think rather powerfully sums up just what it takes to be a person of genuine honor:
From all pride and its effects, deliver me, Jesus.
From coveting greatness for its own sake or to excess, etc.
From contempt of You and Your law,
From a puffed-up self-image,
From claiming to be a self-made man,
From ingratitude for Your gifts,
From thinking that I have earned Your gifts by my effort alone,
From boasting of having what I do not have,
From excusing my faults while judging others,
From wishing to be the sole possessor of the skills I have,
From setting myself before others,
From all vainglory, deliver me, Jesus.
From craving praise for its own sake, etc.
From looking for flattery,
From withholding glory from You,
From showing off to the harm of my neighbor,
From presumption and false self-confidence,
From the excessive need to be fashionable,
From obstinacy and contention,
From all false humility, deliver me, Jesus.
From forfeiting my dignity as a child of God, etc.
From burying the talents that You gave me,
From an unreasonable fear of failure,
From avoiding my true vocation,
From despair at my weakness,
In the ways of humility, teach me, Jesus.
To know my limits and my strengths, etc.
To acknowledge the depravity of my past sins,
To acclaim You as the author of all the good I do,
To put my confidence in You,
To be subject to You and Your Church,
To be subject to others for Your sake,
To revere Your presence in others,
To rejoice in Your gifts in others, even the gifts unseen,
To do great things by Your help and for Your glory, strengthen me, Jesus.
To seek greatness in heavenly things and lasting virtue, etc.
To do my best even when unnoticed,
To put my share of Your gifts at Your service,
To be neither puffed up by honor nor downcast by shame,
To do penance for my sins and those of others,
Above all, to strive to love You with all my being,
And to love my neighbor as myself,
One other thought to share before I close out this series: it was, in the Catholic tradition, Divine Mercy Sunday yesterday, the Sunday of the Octave of Easter. The Gospel reading for Mass was the story of Thomas, and his protestation at being told the risen Christ had appeared to the Apostles:
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Now, of course, Christ reappears to the Apostles a week later, and challenges Thomas on this. But what’s interesting is Thomas’ reply, which is probably the most profound confession of faith recorded in all of Scripture:
“My Lord and my God!”
I present Thomas, here, as an example of Honor. I mean, yes, he began in doubt; whereas others were able to accept the Resurrection without seeing Christ physically present before them, Thomas wasn’t able to, and was honest about his doubts in this respect. But equally, when confronted on those doubts by the risen Christ, Thomas responded with (I think) not only incredible wisdom and insight, but also great courage. He moved from being unable to believe, to understanding and professing one of the most profound truths about the nature of Jesus. He changes, is transformed…and that’s not an easy thing for people to do.
But it’s a very honorable thing for Thomas to have done, given the circumstances.
Happy Easter…and be Virtuous.
Trinsic (Positive) from the Ultima 9 Soundtrack