In yoga class last Friday, our teacher asked us to think of a word we'd like to use as a mantra or guiding principle over the course of 2008. The word that popped into my mind, and stuck there like an annoying burr no matter how I tried to dislodge it, was honor.
Honor. No problem to think about that one, hmmm? Honor yourself, others, the world. Yes, yes, very good idea. But as with all spiritual concepts, there is ever so much more to it when you start giving it real thought. And of course, I'm now tripping on ideas of honor at the click of every hour.
Reading a regular column called A Million Ways to Save the World in the new Oprah magazine, a line struck me like a thunderclap: Forget self-esteem...focus on self-respect, says Diana de Vegh, a psychotherapist.
Not self-esteem, self-respect. It made me hear my father's voice in my head, exhorting me to be responsible, to think about the consequences of my actions (and, thankfully, he never allowed me to slide--if consequences were not forthcoming from external sources, he imposed them from within the family structure).
Not self-esteem, self-respect. One implies unconditional love, which is fine in its place. The other encourages esteem born of action and responsibility to self, others, the community and world. Honor?
I have been thinking far too often of one of the incidents from last week, about a person I am fond of who took a dramatic and destructive turn. The consequences are terrible for her, and she was first in my prayers and sorrows, but as the days pass, I keep catching glimpses of the ripples that radiate outward from her, and how many different people are affected in small and large ways. She most of all, of course, but we all choose our paths, one way or another, and so did she. Those around her did not choose but will be forced to deal with the fall-out. Her actions have consequences.
I'm sure many of you have heard about the plagiarism discussion surrounding a historical romance writer, who was outed on an irreverent romance review website. (I am not going to contribute to the fire by adding links or names--that is not the point here.) There are dishonorable actions all around on this one--the plagiarism is wrong, and should rightfully have been reported. But with power comes responsibility, and the glee of the exposers is in poor taste. The body of journalism law and ethics has developed for a reason, out of trial and error. Plagiarism is a crime that must be reported whenever it is discovered. That is responsible. Continuing to hoot and holler over the crime after reporting makes it feel about as appealing as a couple of sixth graders kicking a dead deer on the side of the road.
Also, Madeline L'Engle says, "If you don't do your work, it might not ever get done." My minister (whom I seem to be quoting a lot here recently) says over and over, "Do what is yours to be done."
Simple, clear, straightforward, and like a powerful sword, the idea carries both redemption and crusade. If you do your work, it then goes into the world to heal or inspire or quiet or amuse or breathe life or excite or express. If you do it, things heal, get better. If you don't, the work goes unfinished, the holes remain, the ache stays aching.
It's almost impossible to imagine a world in which everyone is doing that, focusing on what is theirs to do. I can certainly see times in my life when simply focusing on my own stuff would have made a difference. I'm sure you can see incidents in your own, can't you? To earn self-respect, I must be responsible to the press of the work that is mine to do, and the consequences are toward healing. My acquaintance turned her back on what was hers to do, and the result is crushing. The reporters of the plagiarism were responsible and did what was theirs to do, but then allowed power to lead them into destructive action, and thereby possibly wound the work that is still theirs to do. They turned honorable action to dishonorable action. Sensationalism is never honorable. (Notice how sensationalism enters into the presidential race, for example.)
Hmm. I think this is going to be very interesting, exploring honor, as part of what is mine to do this year.
What is yours to honor this year? What does honor mean to you?