The Meaning of Honor - The Warrior's Journey®

The Meaning of Honor

Author: David Causey, USA (Ret.)

Rifle Salute. Photo by The U.S. Marines is licensed under CC By 2.0

Tyler Heep, of Urbandale, Iowa, achieved a life-long dream recently.

He got his picture in the news holding one of those big ceremonial checks that the lottery jackpot winners receive. The ceremonial check was hand-signed by the Iowa Lottery’s CEO, Larry L. Loss (a name descriptive of what most participants in the lottery will suffer).

And what were Tyler’s winnings? A whopping $1. Actually, Tyler didn’t even get the cash. He asked lottery officials if he could get the ceremonial check instead of the money. Frankly, the Iowa Lottery’s willingness to accommodate Mr. Heep’s request was far more notable than his “big win.”

But let’s look at this story more closely. For I suspect it touches a nerve in some of us. Tyler Heep purchased one of Iowa’s new “Stinking Rich” scratch-off tickets (which had a winning capability of $1,000). The ticket only cost him $1. It’s the cheapest ticket available. The odds of winning $1 are 1 in 7. The overall odds of winning “anything” were better than 1 in 5. The odds of winning the top prize of $1,000 was only 1 in 125,100. So Mr. Heep got the easiest win from the cheapest ticket available. Yet he wanted the equal honor with those who invested far more than he was willing to.

Perhaps unknown to Tyler, the Iowa Lottery scaled down his “honors.” Instead of the giant foam-board ceremonial check that the big winners receive, Tyler got a down-sized paper copy. And it was hastily thrown together—i.e. filled out by hand instead of being professionally printed. Yet he stood proudly holding the ceremonial check as if he was equal to the big risk takers.

Well, I’ve made fun of someone else. Now it’s time to poke fun at myself. The denomination that ordained me as a minister used to publish a directory that included all of its ordained and licensed ministers. After my ordination I received one of these directories. I remember the first time I looked through it. I saw that it not only included my name (the first I looked for), but also those of very prominent and successful preachers. At this point I prided myself by saying, “I’m numbered among the big shots,” as if I was even remotely close to being their equal. What a jerk! I was every bit like Tyler Heep, holding up my “Big Winner’s” check, without taking the risks and making the sacrifices. If a person is going to be an honor-seeker, he or she should at least have the decency to perform deeds worthy of honor. We should not merely do the absolute minimum and then claim to be “one of the winners.”

During my time in the Army, I saw many similar displays of improper “honor-seeking.” But first, let’s establish what we mean by “honor.” For there is a difference between the “honor” that some people seek and the “honor” which the Army holds as one of its core values.

In the English language there are two basic meanings of the noun “honor.” And servicemembers frequently mix them up. One meaning of honor is “high respect” or “great esteem.” It’s something that people merit only by doing honorable deeds. The other definition of honor is, “adherence to what is right or to a conventional standard of conduct.” In other words, honor means “doing what is honorable.” This definition of honor amounts to the honorable behavior we perform, rather than to the “honor and praise” which others give to us.

The Army’s definition of honor, as found in the 7 Army Values, refers to the “adherence to what is right.” It means “following a standard of conduct”—that standard which is laid out in the Seven Values.

This is the honor we should pursue. By faithfully doing what is right and honorable we will merit “praise and honor,” though we may never receive it from others. But it’s far better to merit honor and not receive it, than to receive it without meriting it.

Besides, “high esteem” and “praise from others” should never be our pursuit. For people who seek such honor will always try to take credit for success, yet avoid responsibility for failure. This, itself, is a failure of leadership which undermines teamwork and unity. Such glory-seekers dishearten the people around them because they demonstrate to everyone that they are only out to promote themselves. They are not as committed to the mission as they should be, and are committed even less to the needs of their subordinates. May God deliver us from such corrupted leadership!

Jesus described the essence of leadership as servanthood. He said, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:44–46).


Dear Father in heaven, please search my troubled heart. Examine my motives and desires and please purify me within. Remove from my heart all that displeases You and conflicts with the image of Jesus. Let me be driven by selfless love and devotion to duty in all I do. Amen.

Information from:
In article photo in order of appearance: Tyler Heep Facebook post
Honor by the U.S. Air Force licensed under U.S. Govt. Work

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