Theodore E. Keats, MD
"My honor is dearer to me than my life." --Cervantes
"Medicine is an honorable profession." "He or she is an
honorable person." What do these kinds of expressions actually
mean? They slip easily from the tongue, but what qualifies a
profession or person to earn this description? If medicine is
indeed an honorable profession it must be composed of honorable
individuals. I seem to sense "honor" in some people and the lack of
it in others, but I am often at a loss to know what it is I'm
sensing. Mencken states, "The differences between a moral man and
man of honor is that the latter regrets a discreditable act, even
when it has worked out and he has not been caught." I don't think
that quite defines it. How about upright, honest, fair, faithful,
loyal, trustworthy, incorruptible, respectful, chivalrous,
constant. I believe it's all of these things that you can
appreciate in your dealings with honorable people.
In my own interactions with social and professional
acquaintances, I am impressed by how quickly one can discern these
qualities in other individuals and how secure I feel in relating to
them. I think that honor is probably innate rather than cultivated,
for surely they are characteristics that have been instilled by
parents and family early in life, unrelated to socio-economic
background. I do believe that honorable people like themselves
better than those without it. It generates self respect.
Mencius summed it up nicely:
"All men have in themselves that which is truly honorable.
Only they do not think of it."