Last week, we discussed the concept of honor during our pre-class mat chats. We began by working with the kids to come up with a definition. There can be a bit of confusion at this point because there are two definitions of honor that are not related to our topic.
The first is a verb that describes showing respect to someone, as in, “We have a national holiday to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” This is an important concept, but is different from what we were teaching in these discussions.
The other definition of honor has to do with “face.” This is an application of the term that is common in the historical South here in the US, but also in ancient tales of knights. For this definition, a person is concerned with their dignity and how their actions, or the actions of others, impacts their appearance or rank in society. You can think of a southern gentlemen being insulted by someone and requiring a duel to regain their honor.
This second definition also moves us away from the topic we were teaching last week. It also introduces concepts that can teach troubling and even harmful responses to conflict.
The definition we used for our mat chats is that honor is the cultivation of integrity in oneself and expressing that integrity through one’s actions. This language might be a bit much for the average child, so we distilled it down to, “Listening to your inner voice or conscience and making choices based on what it tells you.”
Once we had our definition of honor, we had the kids give us examples of times they, or someone they knew, had behaved honorably. From there, we discussed times when it was difficult to do so. This gave us the opportunity to explore where honorable choices broke down for them and troubleshoot for solutions.
Often, the biggest obstacle to honorable choices and behavior was fear. Fear of things like judgment, embarrassment and getting in trouble. We were then able to review strategies for dealing with fear, such as meditation, relaxation exercises and getting help from a friend, parent or teacher.
There are a couple of things to consider when you discuss this topic with your child.
First, discuss honor in the positive. You want to explore examples of honorable behavior and the value of those actions and feelings, rather discussing dishonor and its consequences. This will help your child see things they can do as opposed to teaching them things to avoid. This approach typically is much more effective.
The other thing is to emphasize what it means to be an honorable person, rather than simply to describe honorable acts.
If you think of a person as being athletic, it is easy to think of them as being special, maybe even gifted. But, if you think of a person as being an athlete, it is easier to think of them as living a particular lifestyle with a specific mindset and commitment.
Someone who is athletic seems more born to it. Someone who is an athlete is that way because they are a product of their choices and hard work.
In the same way, if someone acts honorably, it can be easy to explain that as them just “being a good person.” It speaks more about who they are rather than how they got that way.
If, instead, you explore what it means to be an honorable person, you help create a blueprint for how their effort can get them there.
As always, please leave comments. We’d love to hear about how your conversations go with your child and if you have any requests for mat chat topics!