Honor and sense of honor are not necessarily common terms today. They sound old-fashioned to many ears. The article is an invitation to all those who want to get to the heart’s truth and are not afraid to face the uncomfortable conditioning of society and culture within themselves. This makes it possible to master life from one’s own inner sense of honor.

First, let’s define honor and sense of honor.

From my experience, these terms are no longer very popular in modern society. They sound like eras long gone, and there is something dusty about them. But are they really? Or to put it another way, why do they have this old-fashioned connotation that triggers a strange feeling inside us? I would like to invite you, dear readers, to read the article not only with your mind but to connect with the feeling of your inner soul self. In particular, I recommend feeling which thoughts and emotions arise in you while reading my lines and observing them.

I understand, based on Greek antiquity, thinking and feeling as reciprocal processes. It is not a rational approach toward thinking, but an intuitive one, which is in silent dialogue with itself, in contact with the divine. Only we ourselves and our cultural and social conditioning stand between this dialogue. The more we are aware of them and can transform them, the clearer the communication, the communion, with the reality that is greater than ourselves.

The sense of honor is the node that connects our spiritual self with the material world.

It does not separate the material and spiritual worlds but integrates both worlds on a third level. For this reason, even dignity, which is held in such high esteem in our culture—as it should be—cannot replace honor. Both categories are essential but have different functions. 

|dig-ni-ty: (noun)

—the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect

|hon-or: (noun)

    —high respect; great esteem

Dignity is far more than honor, a category of the sovereign individual as pure spirit. Honor and sense of honor are relational principles centered on one’s relationships with oneself, one’s fellow human beings, and one’s environment. Honor is a relational principle. Awareness of one’s own dignity is primary to it, but alone it is not sufficient. Honor is always about the question, of which action or result is for the greatest good of all involved, including myself. The answer to this is found within ourselves. I deliberately emphasized “including myself” because there are two kinds of people: Those who tend to think too much of themselves and those who always think too little of themselves.

You can now sense this within yourself. Which tendency are you more inclined to? Dare to be honest with yourself.

Reach your personal sense of honor.

In order to reach our sense of honor, it is necessary to look at all the mechanisms that are at work within us, that keep us from our true sense of soul and hinder the dialogue with the Divine to different degrees. Rather, in the following, I will describe the mechanisms and barriers that can lead us away from our sense of honor—or what we are falsely sold as honor. Of course, I can only deal with a few selected aspects in this paper. However, you can use it as inspiration for further work. I will confront you with partly unpleasant topics. Whether you want to deal with them or not is up to you. I just don’t want to support the tendency to intellectual consumption behavior, where the problem is always taken up with the head and passed on to the others.

Only we ourselves can change something, and we can change by changing ourselves. This change starts internally and ideally translates into actions externally. When many people do this, something changes. Just complaining about the world and lamenting about your dishonor does not help. It makes us part of the problem, a co-perpetrator.

Terms are not just an arbitrary string of letters. They possess force and power. We are manipulated by the terms. The fact that honor is diffused and perverted today does something to us.

Search within yourself for a moment. What do you feel when you hear the term honor? What do you associate with the term? Are there aspects of you that feel offended? Or perhaps you feel no connection at all? There is no judgment here. It is a process of awareness. To put it bluntly, we are all narcissists until we have arrived at our center.

Honor and narcissism

Honor is the center. It cannot be named. This was known to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who inspired my observations, which I develop intuitively. Only holy or enlightened people are truly in their center, or to be more precise, they are at the core of their being. To put it bluntly, we are all narcissists (even if we differ in degree) until we have arrived at our center. At the same time, the center is never static. Life is constantly in motion, so we can only sustain our own center if we continuously change.

The victim egos are always blaming others for their suffering and they literally look for situations where they can remain victims.

The narcissist thinks, feels, and acts out of his ego. This ego can either become too much or make itself too small. One is the perpetrator ego, the other is the operating ego. The perpetrator ego is generally better known as the victim ego. 

The perpetrator ego is the person who drowns out everyone and uses others for their own purposes. The fact that victims can also be perpetrators is known at times, but far less prevalent in consciousness, which is why I want to give them more attention here. People who keep themselves small (victim ego) usually hide behind people who tend to make themselves big (perpetrator ego). They stand out or are conspicuous because they do nothing. The victim’s ego is always blaming others for their suffering and they literally look for situations where they can remain victims. Thus, they never have to take responsibility for themselves. They are addicted to their own happiness and thereby do themselves a great dishonor. 

The perpetrator ego, the classic narcissist, always presents itself as bigger than it really is. This only works because one makes himself too small and the other too big. The fundamental deficiency of the narcissist is his lack of love for himself. It is a disorder in the vertical axis to one’s own self, to one’s own love within oneself. 

Common academic research dealing with narcissism attributes this deficiency to an unhappy childhood and to dysfunctional relationships with primary caregivers such as the father or mother. This may be partially true, but I take it a step further because I know that we do not come into the world as innocent blank pages. We bring a soul and a character with us to this earth, which chooses certain family situations as well. Focusing problems on childhood can lead to placing responsibility only on the parents and using it to excuse inappropriate actions in victim-ego mode. 

No matter how difficult our situation may have been, only we can change it and get out of the perpetrator-victim mode. In doing so, we only become adults if we take an honest look at the situation and recognize when we were really victims and when we were perpetrators. Even if we were victims, which may well be the truth, it is our decision how we deal with it. It is not enough to just work through this mentally, the hurts have to be healed emotionally. There are many different ways and means to do this, and they are different for everyone. Once we have gone through many emotional layers, we eventually come to a point where we no longer have to allow hurts to occur. We are emotionally mature and healed. Now it is up to us to decide whether we want to play the perpetrator-victim game or become the conscious creator of our own lives. It is only then that we can step into our true power, love.

We have several voices within us. There is the one that guides us in truth, but there are also a whole host of other voices, such as those of our parents or teachers, other social opinions, or our own self-censorship. Our freedom of existence is to determine how we want to live and which voice we want to follow. No one can take this decision away from us.

Honor and love: There is a difference.

Love and honor are probably the central human forces. Love is the highest form of the feminine principle, and honor is the highest form of the masculine principle. We carry both principles within us, regardless of whether we are female or male. Honor is a form of love, by honoring the other person, we love them at the same time. If we love someone without honoring them, we usually do not respect their individual boundaries, we pass over the other person and thus ourselves. 

Love expands, it is vast, and it is the unifying principle. Honor is the boundary, the separating principle. We need both principles to interact with each other. Inner honor is the deep feeling within us of being at peace with ourselves and our environment. It guides, if we allow it, our actions in the material world from a higher perspective. However, it takes practice and training to follow this category and not the other voices, which are naturally afraid to die.

What is your decision and what truth do you want to lead your life from? Do you follow your own voice or rather the “assignments of honor” in the form of approval from others?

At first glance, the word honor no longer has any meaning in modern society. The term as such is rarely used in law, but society as a whole is built on recognition from the outside. Society demands certain types of behavior and reprimands others. If we follow the social norms, we receive recognition and external honor through others and various prestige goods. Ideally, inner and outer honor coincide, so that honor is bestowed on truly honorable people. However, such a society does not exist yet, so if we really want to live according to inner honor, we need to free ourselves from external recognition. Inner honor can exist without outer honor, but outer honor cannot exist without inner honor. It is manipulation. External honor cannot generate real honor. Great spirits like Jesus, Buddha, or Mahatma Gandhi, to name but a few, have shown us exactly this. During their lifetime, they received all but recognition. They were ostracized, persecuted, and punished.

Honor is the center that cannot be named. 

Being honorable does not mean being altruistic either. This is often confused. Altruism is the expression of the victim-ego that places too little value on itself and seeks recognition through its self-sacrificing behavior. Honor lies in the middle between egoism and altruism and transcends the poles on a third level, which is expressed in a perceived truth, depending on the situation, in action. Consequently, selfless action is also not the middle, because it sacrifices one’s own self.

The ego may be sacrificed, but not the self. A selfless act is not an honorable act.

When we form honor and our sense of honor within ourselves, we can recognize truly honorable action. Since our emotional and feeling life is manipulated by our socialization and societal values, some of which are repeated for centuries, we must be vigilant in observing whether the feeling we think is honor is really honor. There are guiding social categories that lead us to ourselves, but others do not. Simply choosing to live against society, therefore, does not make us honorable. An accurate assessment of the different social areas is needed.

Feel inside yourself. Do you do things to be praised or to receive recognition? Do you go beyond your limits to be liked? Do you freely act on your own without the expectation of validation?

No area is more socially overburdened by honor than sexuality. Although this has been severely broken up in today’s Western culture, in contrast to previous moral laws, it has happened at best on a performance level and, moreover, has resulted in a counter-extremism. There is a difference between what we pretend to be (even if we may believe it ourselves) and where we actually stand. The radar for our actual developmental stance is revealed in our emotional reactions to events on the outside.


Note: To learn more about the deeper and more personal applications of this topic, read part 2.

About the author:

Gabriele Maria Sigg recently successfully completed her doctorate on the topic of honor at the Humboldt University in Berlin. Magistra Artium (University of Regensburg, 2004-2009), studied sociology, philosophy and cultural studies. Freelance work in the editorial department of