If you have been around the Christian scene in the past few years, chances are you have heard of ‘culture of honour’ or something similar.
I have first came across this ‘concept’ about 10 years ago. It impacted me deeply at the time and propelled me on a journey of discovery. So in this post I want to I share a few key things I have learned along the way in the hope that these may be helpful to others
First of all, the word ‘honour’ itself may need some defining as it is not an everyday word in today’s society. The Oxford Dictionary gives the following synonyms to the noun ‘Honour’:
integrity, honourableness, honesty, uprightness, ethics, morals, morality, principle, principles, high principles, righteousness, rectitude, nobility, high-mindedness, right-mindedness, noble-mindedness
virtue, goodness, decency, probity, scrupulousness, worthiness, worth, fairness, justness, justice, truthfulness, trustworthiness, reliability, dependability, faithfulness, fidelity (Oxford Dictionary)
That’s a long list of wonderful meanings. They all paint a picture of a person full of good character - an honourable man/woman; a person of somewhat regal character.
Living a life of honour starts and ends with my character. It is about who I am and how I conduct my life towards others.
In Romans 12:10, Paul talk about honour in this way: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour.”
First, Paul challenges us to outdo one another in showing value, in other words: aim to be the most honourable and encouraging person the room.
Second, looking at the origins of the idea, the Greek word for ‘Honour’ is Time (Te-Ma), which means worth or value. An honourable person assigns value to others.
‘Honour is when I show value for something because it reveals, reflects or points to the nature, attributes, or power of God’ (Paul Manwaring)
Jesus paid the price for your life on the cross. He has assigned eternal value to you. The very foundation of a culture of honour is this: Everyone has value because of Jesus. Honour is not based on how well someone has performed or how good they are, but on the supreme truth that God has placed his glory inside of you through Jesus Christ, his son.
You have value and the person next to you has value. My job as an honourable person is to recognise, protect and uplift that.
Our culture has an undercurrent in it. We are almost incapable of giving and receiving compliments that really matter. Sure we can say ‘nice haircut’ or ‘great job on that presentation’. But when it comes to comments that really go to our core and affirm who we are, our character, our personality, we struggle. Especially when they are calling something out (they see something in us) that we don’t see - yet.
A few years ago one of my leaders, an elder in the church, made a point of every time he saw me to affirm me. He would say things like: Maggie, you are an excellent administrator. Maggie, you are a woman of integrity, you make great choices. Maggie, you are a lioness, you are a fighter.
At the time, I didn’t think I was administratively or organised. I felt constantly confused, almost incapable of making decisions and I was timid and insecure.
I couldn’t receive what he told me because it wasn’t my current reality and what he called out in me felt ‘too good to be true’. Something in me really responded to his words and I realised that what he saw was the kind of person I wanted to be, the person I desired to be. But because of the perception I had of myself, I didn’t allow myself to believe him. I brushed off and away everything he said. Until one day he stopped me and said:
Maggie, you need to learn to take affirmations, otherwise you will not grow into all that God has placed in you. Even if you can’t see it or understand it, when someone honours you, say ‘thank you’, smile and let it nourish your soul until you see what others see and until you see what God sees!
Those words changed my life.
Honour and the prophetic flow hand in hand.
It nice to say nice things, but it is even better to speak God-words. It is good to generally encourage, but it is life-transforming when we partner with God and call out that which is still hidden: the glory and value he has placed in the every person.
When I first started really wrestling with this I thought a lot about the difference between compliments and flattery. I realised there is a subtle but important difference in how these two play out.
Compliments are solely for the good of the other person.
Flattery always wants something in return.
To put it bluntly, flattery is a form of manipulation and control.
One of my colleagues when he first started working with me, would come to me and ‘compliment’ my hair or clothing, swiftly followed by asking me for a favour. After a while, I started refusing his requests. Don’t worry, I explained to him; no offence was caused in the making of this story. I explained to him that I would probably do what he is asking me to do without the compliment and that the fact both always came together, made either invalid. The compliment counted for nothing and helping him had a bitter after taste for me. Don’t worry, he took it really well and we still banter about it. Our society is ripe with manipulation tactics and it is time we stop playing into them.
Sadly ‘honour’ can sometimes be a fig leave for manipulation and control. Honour cannot be demanded. It is always given.
It’s easy to honour and value people in moments of calm, agreement, celebration. Our culture is well rehearsed in honouring achievements. Where our character of honour is tested is when we hit difficulties relationally. Especially when we are backed into a corner we have a difficult choice to make: we can lash out and use our strength or we can choose humility and remain in a posture of honour – you before me.
This isn’t just dry theory to me. I find that the choice to dominate/manipulate or honour /go low, presents itself to me daily: in my marriage, in church, at work, in friendships.
“Honour is never to build around what I need. It is built around what I can give. And if I don’t learn to give it to those that deserve it least, I will continue to live in an environment without honour.” (Bill Johnson)
I had a colleague a few years back who was persistently accusing my team of underperforming. We listened and tried to improve, but every time we tried to understand his frustrations and accusations, we came up with no substance. He had nothing concrete to back up his claims and nothing really we could learn from. It was a frustrating cycle that we couldn’t seem to escape. I was determined not to lash back and continue to honour him – not easy when I found myself coming home in tears of frustration many days.
One day I was on a call with him and his line manager and I felt the nudging of the Holy Spirit to ask him as specific question. The question wasn’t vicious at all, in fact it was a question I asked to try and make it his life easier, but the result of his answer was the he left the company soon after. His line manager and he realised that the source of his frustration wasn’t my team, but rather other factors. So he moved on.
Persist in honour and God will take care of the rest.
Honour and humility go hand in hand. Humility being: the choice to use your own power (or sometimes forsake your own power) for the sake of others.
[Jesus] Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! – Philippians 2: 6-8
A culture of honour will produce strong, trustworthy, confident, courageous, kind, joyful, peaceful people who know who they are and know the glory and value they have in them; people who know they are powerful, but choose to use their power for the edification and building up of others.
What choices can you make today that will build an environment of honour in your life?