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Honor, Shame, and Self-Respect

Posted on Friday, December 1, 2023
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by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
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22 Comments
The word HONOR written in vintage letterpress type

Why does it seem the underpinnings of our self-respecting, other-regarding society are slipping? Is it my imagination, or are honor, shame, and self-respect sliding? If so, the slide is unhealthy, and we need to stop it.

Growing up, we were taught how you behaved toward others reflected on you, but how you regarded yourself also affected you. That was part of growing up.

Put differently, while others placed expectations on us, our parents, teachers, clergy, scoutmasters, coaches, we were supposed to have expectations of ourselves.

Take the idea of honor. If we were not expected to be angels, we were expected to respect parents, teachers, veterans, our elders, as well as lines, rules, and laws.

We were expected to understand the concept of honor, idea that higher principles exist, like faith, God, and conscience – also an inner ticker, code of conduct, something we respected in ourselves as inviolate, a place we would not go.

Part of honor was understanding the value that resides in ourselves, thus in hard work, generosity with what we earned, care for others as a way of acknowledging gratitude, meeting our intergenerational and unrepayable debts.

Long before love of family, listening to your heart, giving for the sake of giving, before following biblical injunctions, there was always appreciation, part of honor.

In practical terms, if we did not wish to let parents, teachers, or elders down, we did not want to let ourselves down. Self-respect meant building self-reliance.

If we could learn something new, we did. If we could do it for ourselves, not be dependent, we did. If we could gain independence though work, some sacrifice, ownership of the problem so we owned the victory, we did.

We wanted a first job, then better job, a chance to see what see what we could do, what we were made of, how high we could go with what we had, we were curious.

All this fed into honor, meant we did not want a free lunch or anybody’s sympathy, no debt forgiveness, handouts, pity parties or benefit of someone else’s work.

That idea stunk, was like agreeing to defeat, pretending we had no personal value, no capability, no inner strength, no direction, resolve, stamina, or tenacity.

Do not get me wrong, this was not window dressing. This was not an indulgence for me or anyone else.  worked of necessity, age 12, no regrets, very happy.

I cleaned and fixed toilets, climbed under buildings with monkey wrenches, worked on mowers, boats, and cars, learned how to shingle, paint, stud up walls, evolved to teaching things like swimming, eventually how to use my brain.

But the joy in all this was indescribable. When I see kids declaring bankruptcy rather than pay back student loans, Biden inviting that cheap cop out, encouraging them to disgrace their honor, an investment in themselves, it makes me sad. 

My mother raised four kids on a schoolteacher’s salary, made life good, told us we had to go to college, which meant – with no money – work, loans. We all did that.

In my case, I worked all my college years, paid back loans for the next twenty, but believed in myself, was very glad others believed in me. I would not think of letting them down, caving to some handout, looking for a free lunch, no way.

Then take the idea of shame. You see transgender boys edging out girls who are built differently, thinking they are “special” for indulging unfairness, no shame.

You see politicians indulging in insider trading, taking all they can, getting rich on the public dole, embracing political corruption and bold lies. It is un-American.

The idea that you should have dignity is not complicated, simple. It means you have enough self-respect to believe integrity matters, has meaning for you, that you have some belief in yourself, expect something of yourself, a code.

People who have no shame for illegality, immorality, and venality, their greed and thinking God forgives mobs and slobs, that there is no need to try, that you can steal to get by – here is a shocking revelation: You have failed yourself.

That message was taught in my youth, and stuck. Because it stuck, and decades before us, America is what it is. Honor, shame, and self-respect do matter. The slide is unhealthy, and we need to stop it.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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SusanW
SusanW
2 months ago

Thank you, Robert, for once again sounding the alarm regarding an important concept that is slowly and quietly disappearing from the moral fabric of our country. Honor. At one time, we were all raised to respect our elders, parents, teachers, veterans, and leaders in our communities. Sadly, many of our moral concepts have been steadily declining over recent years. Americans have shown more tolerance and acceptance for the lack of honor, self-respect and the truth from the themselves and more importantly, their political leaders than ever before. Abraham Lincoln so wisely said, “ Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” This concept is truly being tested in today’s world. We must continue to fight for honor, truth, and self-respect so our youth and future leaders will carry these values into the future. In closing, Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Praying for our country!

Rob citizenship
Rob citizenship
2 months ago

This article , this topic, establishes a foundation for building many other things that contribute to living according to principles. Well done with this Robert. In the article ” Time , Truth and the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan ” – which I remember reading a long time ago – ( almost 24 hours ago ! ) , you mentioned many of the significant achievements of President Reagan and that was really great to recall that spirit from that time – and I believe what you wrote ” Time passes fast, yet good things happen with intent , focus and hope .”- has significant influence on how challenges should be met. Keeping in mind the parable of Christ about the lamp, the light from the lamp being symbolic about doing things that are morally right, and being a good example for others. A code of conduct , based on the elements of good character, to accompany having a sense of purpose. I do believe that a sense of humor, that is respectful and uplifting is of great importance too. All of these things connect so as to provide the ability to stay on the right course, as individuals and as a Nation. In the spirit of everything that encourages good character, good citizenship, respect for law and the will of God, respect for life and freedom.

Myrna
Myrna
2 months ago

Philadelphia is preparing to make ski-masks illegal. At least the city is doing something to stem the tide. The loss of self-respect is the beginning of the end.

Patriot Bill
Patriot Bill
2 months ago

1. Self respect
2. honor bound
3. Duty
Amen, sir.

Smike
Smike
2 months ago

Our country is messed up because we messed it up and taught our children how to mess it up even more. We taught them to disrespect authority, the police and our nations leaders. We showed them speeding and respect for safety rules and laws were for chumps. We taught them items purchased with a credit card are free. We taught them student loans aren’t loans at all. We my friend are the reason this generation is destroying America. We need to stand up and be the light; to make America Great Again, we need to clean up our mess.

anna hubert
anna hubert
2 months ago

Honor shame and self respect are anathema to today’s enlightened progressives They are ruled by chaos Results are everywhere

Paul
Paul
2 months ago

Spot On!!

David Millikan
David Millikan
2 months ago

Excellent article. Now Dictator Beijing biden wants to attach Federal Money to Federal Grants for College except to be eligible you have to accept transgender ideology to get your grant. This violates your 1st Amendment rights along with many other rights. This is the only way they can FORCE this garbage upon you. This is NO BS people. Do your homework.

johnh
johnh
2 months ago

For starters, I am a baby boomer & was raised to honor & respect our Police officers & Military persons. For example, if police wanted to see my ID or told me to put my hands up or stop running away………then I was raised to comply with their order. Today, if person does not comply & gets injured or shot or killed……then the police are always wrong & end up the victim. People should be trained to comply with officers & then go to court if they are innocent. Sometimes, we are protecting the wrong side of the law.

johnh
johnh
2 months ago

What other nation on earth would allow 10-20-or 50 shoplifters enter & wipe out a store and not be arrested or stopped? How can these people be so brainwashed that they think shoplifting is their right? This is hurting all of America & how many stores have moved to other cities or closed altogether due to this crime. We are soft on crime & letting this happen.

Christina
Christina
2 months ago

Thank you for your commentary on Winston Churchill in the magazine. I had no other way to let you know how deeply I’ve felt in the same regard. As the present darkness grows, and I find myself spiraling toward despair, I often call to mind Churchill, and the British people. He was a remarkable man, born for a specific time and purpose and he did not waiver from God’s plan, but faced it with raw Courage and an indomitable conviction in the path before him, and with a clarity and wisdom most of his circle lacked. Clementine was a remarkable person as well…. It is good to know a fellow traveler still remains on this plain that feels as I do, for I have never known such a person in my own life, sadly. So, thank you again, for sharing your thoughts and response to a man I also admire and revere.

fred r smith
fred r smith
2 months ago

robert charles should be ashamed of himself for writing such poor articles and there’s nothing honorable about that

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