Friendship Essay Honor

There is an unspoken code amongst friends -- one that is based on a set of shared values. Throughout the years of meeting different types of people, I've had friends come and go. The ones that are no longer in my life is usually the result of a misalignment of values. The older I get, the more unwavering I am about what those values and boundaries are.

You don't have to agree with me, as your values may differ from mine, and your friend code, may also be very different. But, I thought I'd share with you, some of the unspoken rules that my close friends and I share.

1. Don't date a friend's ex
There are over 7 billion people out there, surely, there is another person that you could "fall in love" with. And maybe you'd argue no, and that your friend's ex is your one and only soul mate. If that's the case, then you'll have the rest of your lives to spend together, and you can surely be sensitive to the timing of things. In other words, let some time pass to allow your friend to heal without having to imagine her ex locking tongues with her friend. Is that logical? Maybe not. But human feelings aren't that logical, and that stuff hurts.

2. When there's a breakup do you take sides?
Yes, yes you do. If the breakup was amicable, then this may not be necessary. But if the breakup was horrible and your friend was bulldozed in the process, then yes, you do take sides. I'm not saying forever, but for a while. There is a grace period of time after a breakup where unfortunately, surrounding friends just have to be extra sensitive to the weeping heart. Sure, it's inconvenient, and sure, we should be able to act like grown ups. But it doesn't matter how grown up you are, breakups hurt and that heartache doesn't get easier with age.

3. Don't be cheap and calculative
Friendship is not about tit for tat. When you put your energy into constantly monitoring who pays for what, who did more for who... you block the flow of the friendship. And you start to resent when you feel that you're not getting enough in return. Friendship is a long-term investment. In the grand scheme of things, all of the giving/taking (whether that be in who pays, who listens, who drives...) balances out in the end, in some shape of form. If you feel that you have to keep the balance sheet out, ask yourself if the friend is someone you actually want in your life and if their values match yours.

4. Don't be a drama queen
Gossip, assumptions, talking behind someone's back... that's the sort of drama that high-school friendships thrive on, not adult ones. Friendships when you're a grown adult aren't meant to provide the same things that teenage friendships once did. Teenage friendships are filled with intense conversations as you start creating the person you want to be, it's about memories in Cancun and two-hour long phone conversations about the weekend. Those things are great... at that age.

Adult lives are filled with enough drama and hard work as it is, and that work only triples when you have a family. Friendships in your adult years shouldn't require grueling hard work. They are meant to be light, for the most part positive, supportive and nurturing. They need to complement the life you have created -- not cause strife in it. Healthy adult friendships handle conflict differently as well. Instead of giving the silent treatment for months or making passive aggressive jabs here and there, you remove the assumptions and have a straight up conversation on whatever the matter it is that's really bothering you, and be done with it.

5. Don't go M.I.A. when you have a new love interest
New lust/love is definitely a magical part of a new relationship. But just because you have someone new in your life, don't forget your troop of friends that were your biggest cheerleaders before Mr. Right came along. Your friends are not "fillers" for the times when you're single. Invest in your friends because most of them, will be there in the long run. Your latest Mr. Right, unfortunately, may not. It's not fair to flake on plans, or not make time to see your friends, and then expect them to nurture you back to health during your fights or breakup. Plus, balance is key in a healthy romantic relationship, so it's a lot better for your own relationship to maintain regular catch-ups with your friends.

No one is perfect, and it's human to make mistakes in your friendships here and there. Once you establish a foundation of trust, consistency and support in your friendships, mistakes are a lot easier to forgive, forget and move forward. Also, even the best of friends may not be that aware of when they are overstepping a boundary. That's why it's important to give the benefit of the doubt to those friends you truly care about, and have a candid conversation with the person when you feel a boundary has been crossed. But, if you feel that your boundaries are constantly being overstepped or disrespected, it may be a sign of a difference in values and that it's time to take a break from that friend (for a period of time or indefinitely).

Want to do a check to see if your decision is one that will hurt or harm your friendship? Ask yourself how you would feel if a friend treated you in the same way. If you would be upset if the roles were reversed, then that's a pretty good gauge to know that your behavior is crossing a boundary.

Amy Chan is a relationship and lifestyle blogger.

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Across cultures and time, honor and manliness have been inextricably tied together. In many cases, they were synonymous. Honor lost was manhood lost. Because honor was such a central aspect of a man’s masculine identity, men would go to great lengths to win honor and prevent its loss.

If we take even a cursory look at history, honor pops up over and over again as a central theme in literature and life. The epic poems of Homer are primarily about honor and man’s quest to achieve and maintain it. If you read Shakespeare’s plays with a close eye, you’ll find that honor and manhood take center stage as reoccurring themes. During the 17th and all the way into the early 20th century, upperclass men in Europe and the United States regularly engaged in duels on “fields of honor” to defend their manhood. When signing the Declaration of Independence, the American Founding Fathers “mutually pledged to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

But what exactly is honor?

We throw the word around quite a bit in our modern lexicon and give it a lot of lip service, but if you were to ask someone, “What is honor?” you’ll likely be answered with furrowed brows and head scratches. We think we know what it is, but often find it difficult to articulate when pressed. If you’re lucky enough to get an answer out of someone, they’ll likely say that honor means being true to a set of personal ideals, or being a man of integrity.

Honor=integrity is the point to which the definition of honor has evolved and what it generally means in our society today. In fact, it’s how we defined honor in our book, The Art of Manliness Manvotionals

That definition of honor, while correct in our modern use of the word, doesn’t really capture the concept of honor that Homer wrote about, that countless duelists died for, and that our Founding Fathers swore upon. Except for a few pockets of society like the military, fire departments, and criminal gangs, honor, as millions of men from the past understood it, barely exists in the modern West. When folks in the mainstream do bring up this type of honor, it’s usually done in jest. (See Man Code or Bro Code).

And while there are certainly some very troubling aspects of honor as it was understood in the past (which we’ll explore), I believe that part of the decline of manhood in America and other Western countries can be traced in part to a lack of a positive notion and healthy appreciation of the kind of classic honor that compelled (and checked) our manly ancestors.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to explore honor — what it is, its history and decline in the West, and its moral quandaries. We’ll also investigate how we can revive manly honor in a culture that fears, mocks, and suppresses it.

Today, we’ll begin by exploring what honor is. This post will lay the foundation of our discussion over the next few weeks. I’ll be honest with you: once you move beyond surface definitions, honor is not an easy topic to understand and requires you to really get your cognitive gears in motion. Surprisingly little has been written on such an important subject, and the anthropologists, sociologists, and historians who have tackled it have tended to describe various parts and expressions of it, without ever seeming to find its core. For example one of the few books on the subject, Honor: A History by James Bowman, is filled with a ton of fascinating insights into the history of honor, but at the end, one is left with the impression that Bowman himself wasn’t entirely sure what it meant. It is simply extremely difficult to recapture and describe something that was once so intrinsic to people’s lives that they did not feel the need to explain it. I cannot hope to do better than the academics who have come before, but I have tried to synthesize and distill out the most salient and important points to understand about the classic idea of honor and what it means for manliness.

Watch the Video

Horizontal vs. Vertical Honor

Anthropologist Frank Henderson Stewart makes the case that honor comes in two types: horizontal and vertical.

Horizontal Honor

Horizontal honor is defined as the “right to respect among an exclusive society of equals.” 

Horizontal honor = mutual respect. But don’t let the term “mutual respect” fool you. We’re not talking about the sort of watered-down “respect-me-simply-because-I’m-a-human-being” kind of respect that pervades our modern culture. For horizontal honor to mean anything, it must be contingent upon certain unyielding standards in order to maintain honor within the group.

The existence of horizontal honor is premised on three elements:

A code of honor. A code of honor lays out the standards that must be reached in order for a person to receive respect within a group. These rules outline what it takes to obtain honor (or respect), and how it may be lost. That last stipulation is paramount: honor that cannot be lost is not honor.

Codes of honor often lay out very high standards for the group, but despite their difficulty, codes of honor are always viewed as minimum standards for inclusion. If you can’t meet them, then you’re seen as deficient, even despicable, and are thus shamed.

An honor group. An honor group consists of individuals who understand and have committed to live the code of honor. That everyone in the group has done this is understood by all other members of the group. Because honor depends on respect, an honor group must be a society of equals. Honor is based on the judgments of other members in the group, therefore the opinion of those members must matter to you, and they won’t if you don’t see them as your equals. Respect is a two-way street. While you might respect someone above you in the social pecking order, it’s hard to respect someone you think is beneath you.

Honor groups must also be exclusive. If everyone and anyone can be part of the group, regardless of whether they live by the code or not, then honor becomes meaningless. Egalitarianism and honor cannot coexist.

Finally, the honor group needs to be tight-knit and intimate. A society governed by mutual respect requires everyone in the society to know each other and interact face-to-face. Honor cannot exist in a society where anonymity dominates.

Shame. A person who fails to live up to the group’s code loses his honor — his right to the respect of the other honor group members as equals. A healthy feeling of shame, or the recognition that a person has failed to live up to the honor group’s code is necessary for honor to exist. When individuals stop caring whether they’ve lost their right to respect in the group (i.e. living without shame), honor loses its power to compel and check individuals’ behavior.

Horizontal honor is an all-or-nothing game. You either have the respect of your peers or you don’t. Bringing dishonor upon yourself by failing to meet the minimum standards of the group (or showing disdain or indifference for those standards) means exclusion from the group, as well as shame. Thus, in a tribe/team/group/gang, horizontal honor serves as a dividing line between us and them, between the honorable and the despicable.

I like to think of horizontal honor as your membership card into a club. To get the card, you need to meet a baseline of criteria. When you present the card at the clubhouse door, you have access to all the rights and privileges that come with being a member of that club. To maintain your status and inclusion in the club, you must conform to the club rules. Failure to conform results in your membership card being taken away and exclusion from the club.

This card analogy still resonates today in the few corrupted threads of honor that remain in our culture. Men will talk about taking away each other’s “man cards” — but the violations that invoke this mocking “punishment” are for frivolous things like drinking a fruity cocktail at a bar, and bear only the faintest echoes of the original code of men.

Vertical Honor

Vertical honor, on the other hand, isn’t about mutual respect, but is rather about giving praise and esteem to those “who are superior, whether by virtue of their abilities, their rank, their services to the community, their sex, their kinship, their office, or anything else.” (Stewart p. 59). Vertical honor, by its nature, is hierarchical and competitive. Vertical honor goes to the man who not only lives the code of honor, but excels at doing so.

So, vertical honor = praise, esteem, admiration.

In What Is Honor? Alexander Welsh makes the case that for vertical honor to exist, horizontal honor must first be present.

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