Honor is the Soul Trait that focuses on how we treat other people.
Humility and Honor are both related to how we deal with other people. Rabbi Hillel said, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I?” The first question is about Humility, and the second is about Honor.
Honor is all about giving other people their due, treating them with respect and consideration. Honor is the ability to recognize the Divine Spark in others, and to treat them accordingly. As humans, we all have a strong propensity to judge. We can’t help it – we see someone, and boom, here come the thoughts about the other person’s looks, intelligence, clothes or sense of humor. Finding fault in others can be a way to feel better about oneself.
Unfortunately, many of us have a hunger to be Honored by others. We crave recognition, which is called “chasing Honor” in Mussar. I have a significant Honor imbalance, and for many years my life revolved around chasing Honor. I would feel badly when others were recognized. (Click here to read a poem a wrote about it called “What about me?”)
The goal of the soul trait it to internalize this teaching from the Talmud: “Who has Honor? One who honors others.” (Pirki Avot 4:1)
Too Little Honor: Rude and judgmental behavior.
Too Much Honor: Flattery and obsequious behavior. And, we can neglect our own needs.
American Mussar practice has three parts: a morning mantra, daily actions, and journaling. If you haven’t done so already, watch the video above.
Write the following mantra on an index card, and place it by your bedside
Find the good in anyone”
Given our human tendency to judge others, this mantra provides an alternative. After the judging thought, look for something good in the person. Taking your attention towards the good will transform your perspective.
In the morning, recite the phrase out loud several times and contemplate the meaning. This will frame your thoughts for the day. Pay attention to times when your Honor Soul Trait comes into play.
If you tend towards too little Honor, greet others before they greet you. This practice goes back to the Talmud, which teaches that Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai made it a virtue to greet others in the marketplace before they greeted him. (Berachos 17a).
If you tend towards too much Honor, resolve to give fewer complements. You don’t need to make a radical change, just pull back a little. In other words, try being a little less obsequious by giving fewer complements. You could also practice Humility, and take care of your own needs instead of putting others first.
You don’t need to do anything dramatic – just take a small step outside of your comfort zone.
Write about your experiences at night in your Mussar Journal.
If you are not into journaling, just take a few notes in your phone, or record yourself a voice memo. The key is to contemplate the action in a non-judgmental way to help enable small gradual change in the soul.
Want to learn more about the Soul Trait of Honor? Pick up a copy of The Spiritual Practice of Good Actions.