PBP Week 15: H is for Honor
As a Pagan, I feel like I am sometimes assumed to be a certain kind or amoral or immoral person. A lot of Christians I know assume that without “god” or a deity to check up on me, I must not be a “good” person, that I must lie, cheat, steal or otherwise do harm to others because why on earth wouldn’t I? Maybe this attitude isn’t as pervasive as I think. In my life though, this has been a huge issue: many other groups who use moral systems based on deities have a hard time conceiving of a person without that deity and blindly following those “thou shalt not”s to be a good person. As a Pagan, I would disagree.
I feel like as a Pagan my sense of Honor is what makes me a good person. I do not believe there are gods out there watching my every move waiting to punish me for any grey or negative actions I may take. I make a point to live with Honor, not because a religion tells me I must, but because I choose to be a good person: for the sake of being a good person. I choose not to be a murder, rapist, or thief because those actions HURT people – and I do not want to be a person who hurts others. It’s as simple as that really. I suppose if I were raised with an us-against-them mentality I might want to hurt other people. However, I believe all people are equal. Even the bad people are worth basic human dignity. In my view, all people are all basically equal until they prove themselves to stand out in a good or bad way. No one is “worth” more than another until they have proven this – and then it’s only a circumstantial difference. I live a “good” life because I choose to out of respect for myself and other human beings.
I believe as humans, of whatever faith or lack thereof, that we have a responsibility to develop and abide by a set of ethics. Morals are wonderful for children: they teach us what is acceptable and what is unacceptable in society. For example, it’s a black and white moral issue if we can or cannot kill. Killing a person is murder, and murder is bad. End of story. As adults, people should graduate from morals with a guilt basis to ethics: where shades of grey exist. Ethics help us determine the best or most correct choice given an array of options in any given situation.
Ethical systems can help us to figure out what we think is “right’, why, and come up with systematic ways we can decide the right thing in difficult situations. Like say, when you still love someone dearly but they are self-destructive and dragging you down with them: do you divorce them or do you stay because marriage is “for better or worse.” For me, deciding where I stood on basically everything in deciding how to proceed with the ex Husband. Ultimately what it came down to is you can’t be an honorable and good partner to someone who is dishonoring you. In this case, he physically harmed me on more than one occasion, he was addicted to prescription pain killers and opiates and had repeatedly lied about his drug use, he refused to keep a budget and live within our financial means, he did not feel obligated to meet my emotional needs (or other needs) but did fully expect that his needs be met, he talked about me behind my back constantly and his friends constantly talked about me, and in the end slept with another woman “on impulse.” None of those actions are “honorable” and none of those things were exactly okay with me. The situation came down that there was no way I could live in accordance with my values of family, loyalty, respect, and love in this relationship. I thought the most honorable decision was to leave: so I did. I’m not writing this to get a jab at my ex (to my knowledge, he doesn’t even read this blog) I’m using this example because I feel like it’s a pretty easy illustration of a difficult situation. He was not then, nor is he now, a bad person: he simply does not have the same values I do. I value honesty, temperance, family, personal responsibility, loyalty, and respecting other people. Our ethical systems should be based on our values.
“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
People develop ethics, but aside from being a good person why bother developing ethics and honor? Well, because I believe as a Pagan we create our destiny. Unlike Calvinist brands of Christianity, I do not think we are pre-destined for anything. I believe we create our destiny through our thoughts, actions, words, and character. Those of us who are honorable will create positive futures and those who are less honorable will have less positivity in store for them. This is a part of the Anglo-Saxon concept of the wyrd. I also believe that wanting to do a bad thing is sometimes just as bad as actually doing the bad thing: as in if you think “I hate so-and-so” often enough don’t fool yourself that your thoughts don’t come out and express themselves in other ways! Obviously thinking “I want to kill her” and then not killing someone is a good thing, I am more talking about the kind of snide comments people make and think themselves good for not saying as a matter of habit. Those things DO come out. Anything you make a habit of thinking will affect your wyrd. So, I try to make sure I am thinking good thoughts, completing good actions, and overall trying to uphold my values as much as I possibly can to create a positive future since I think it works that way.
For me as a Pagan, my values and living by these values determine my honor and my future. Living outside of these values makes me feel bad, and when I feel bad about myself and feel like I am not doing the “right” thing or being inauthentic, I get depressed and a lot of things stop happening for me. Now, I am not trying to say this is because I’m Pagan, I believe that would happen to anyone because it seems to be a reasonably proven psychological result of living outside of your own value system. What I do mean to say is that because I am Pagan, I don’t have a “given” set of values imposed on me by a larger church or religious body: I had to do real work to decide what my values were. My values aren’t across the board “Pagan values” – I also place a high value on sexual liberty, sexual equality, and love because of the deities I honor. I value beauty, law, and “culture” in a way many people I know don’t. Additionally, I value the lives of animals and all living things: including the Earth. So for me, a lot of practices that go on in big farms are problematic and eating industrialized meat is unethical. Some of my values are pretty common and some may be a little more unique, but what’s important is that I have thought about them and developed them in a way that I can honor my sense of what’s right and wrong.