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Honour

Posted by Priscilla on March 4, 2013

We live in a culture of dishonor. Whether we criticize and judge, mock and belittle, or overlook and crush, we dishonor the intrinsic worth of another. All around us, meanness reigns. We have forgotten what it means to be magnanimous.

The call is on us to learn how to give honor to whom honor is due. Honor due is not conferred by us, but by virtue of another’s position, title, age, or existence. When we honor, we recognize worth. When we honor, we embrace humility. When we honor, we create beauty.

 

Sometimes giving honor feels like death. When the exchange student living in my home treats me in dishonorable ways, I want to retaliate. I don’t, of course, but perhaps I withhold my honor from her because my heart is cold.

Why does this matter for the writer?

I could say that it matters because Pulitzer and Newbery Award judges are looking for books of character, honor, and distinction. If I don’t know how to give honor in life, how can I infuse it into my writing?

I could say it matters because a life lived in judgment and scorn is a small life, and a story told with judgment and scorn is a small story.

I could say it matters because ugliness always diminishes.

But what I am going to say is this: Honor given to whom honor is due is right and true.

Many years ago, I read The Velveteen Rabbit to my children. Do you remember that story? A little velveteen rabbit became real because a little boy loved him into being. He gave him honor. When I love my characters, when I care enough about them to make them real, I honor them.

I think I dishonor my characters when I allow them to be small. If my characters care only about small things, if I don’t give them the chance to conquer worlds, then I am depriving them of both identity and destiny. If I don’t allow my characters to discover Truth, I dishonor them and every reader who meets them.

I read an ugly book last year in which the characters gossiped and judged and frittered away their lives in small pursuits. If the book had ended before page 175, it would have been a forgettable book. Fortunately, for this reader, the protagonist discovered truth. He discovered how to step outside himself and love. He learned to honor others.

No. What really happened is that the author learned that she did not own the character. Her protagonist was not only an extension of her own bitterness. She honored him by allowing him to become real.

That felt like she honored me.

What do you think?

Comments:

Posted by Joyce Magnin on
Great post, Pris. Thanks for making me think about this. Honoring character is vital. I wonder if this is what we are doing when we say things like, "I let my characters tell me what they want, what they need." It's honoring to the story and to the character to let go to story. Authors are not merely manipulators of character but writers are care takers.
Posted by Janet Erickson on
I agree -- so much of life is about small things. If we have any hope or desire to elevate through our writing, then we need to elevate (honor) our characters so they are worthy of honor and will honor, ultimately, the readers. Good for you, honored friend!
Posted by Tim Cole on
You are correct in pointing out that society has become characterized by dishonoring and meanness. At the same time, "tolerance" has become the gospel of political correctness, at the cost of asserting what is true and right. The Old Testament prophets are great literature, but are brutally honest, lacking in tolerance, and don't ascribe much honor to those who are in rebellion against God. Come to think of it, the same is true of Jesus and the Apostles.
Posted by Johnese Burtram on
What a great reminder about the value of people.
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