Importance of Being Honorable

Young couple greeting man during visit at yard
Portra / Getty Images

Words and actions are powerful. When you say you’ll do something, others expect you to do it, or you may develop a reputation for not following through on commitments and letting people down. Not honoring your word enough times can have people running in the other direction when they see you coming.

Dishonorable People

Everyone knows someone who claims to be an honorable person but doesn’t follow through.

These are people who make promises but quickly forget about them or change direction as soon as they get what they want.

Here are some common ways people don’t honor their commitments or fail to do the right thing:

  • They say they’ll call, but they either forget or don’t for whatever reason.
  • They agree to meet you for coffee or lunch, but they don’t show up.
  • They offer to help with something, but when the time comes, they’re nowhere to be found.
  • They don’t send thank you notes, congratulate friends for accomplishments, or wish a close friend a happy birthday.

If any of those situations happens once or twice, they might be forgiven. However, if there’s a longer pattern of that type of behavior, their personal honor is at stake. Friends and acquaintances quickly learn that they can’t be trusted to keep their word, and they don’t respect others.

Reasons to Act Honorably

Honoring your word is more than simply doing what you say you’ll do because your actions actually say more than words ever will.

Acting in an honorable manner is something that can help make and keep friends. It also affects your position with your company in a positive way.

Here are some specific reasons to act honorably:

  • Reliability. When others know they can rely on you, people are more willing to trust you with keeping your word. You’re more likely to be invited to social events, and at work, you’re more likely to be considered for a promotion.
  • Be on time. Being chronically late wastes other people's time and gives them the impression you don't value them or their time.
  • Trust. Honorable people can be trusted in every way. When someone tells you a secret, it’s important to maintain that trust by not sharing the information with others.
  • Respect. Honorable people are respected. Friends hold you in high regard, and coworkers consider you an example of someone who should be valued.
  • Personal pride. Anyone who consistently acts in a dishonorable manner eventually loses personal pride.
  • Influence. Honorable people have more influence in both their social lives and at the workplace. When they talk, people listen.

How to Be Honorable

Most honorable people have certain traits in common, so learn what they are, work on acquiring them, and practice until they become second nature. It’s great to give lip service to honor, but putting it into action will back up everything you say.

Here are some of the things you can do to be honorable:

  • Be authentic. In other words, don’t try to hide behind pride or a façade that you can’t live up to.
  • Follow through. If you say you are going to do something, do it and do it well, even if it takes time to figure out the process.
  • Be compassionate. When someone needs help, don’t kick them while they’re down. Show compassion and give them a hand if possible. If you can’t help them, introduce them to someone who can.
  • Earn your way. This applies to working hard for a paycheck and earning people’s respect. Don’t expect something for nothing.
  • Don’t expect something in return. If you do something for someone, don’t hold it over the person’s head and expect payback.
  • Be honest but not mean. Tell the truth, but don’t say something hurtful if it isn’t necessary. There are times when it’s best to keep your mouth shut.
  • Have a strong belief system. Stand up for what’s right and push away what’s wrong. Avoid being involved with any unscrupulous behavior.
  • Be a mentor. Teach by example and answer questions to help someone. Then be an encourager when that person strikes out on his or her own.
  • Accept flaws. Everyone has them, with no exceptions. You should always work on improving your own shortcomings, but don’t constantly call other people out on theirs.
  • Don’t humiliate others. If someone does something embarrassing, resist the urge to say something hurtful, no matter how clever it sounds. People may laugh because it’s funny at the moment, but after they think about it, they’ll think less of you.
  • Be a good sport. You can’t win every game, sale, award, or popularity contest. Accept that, congratulate the winner, and move on.

Family, Friends and Coworkers

An honorable person respects all sorts of relationships, including those with family members, friends, and people they work with. Here are some ways they show this respect and honor:

  • Be happy for good things that happen to others. Let them know you’re excited for them.
  • On the flip side, be sympathetic when things aren’t so good for the people in your life. Don’t try to make light of anything bad that happens, no matter how insignificant it seems to you.
  • Congratulate coworkers for promotions, including one you’d hoped for. You may be next in line, and the higher-ups may be watching how you deal with other people’s success.
  • Avoid jealousy. The green-eyed monster is very unattractive so don’t expect to have everything other people have.
  • Acknowledge special days, such as birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries.

Honor is something that takes a little effort but has big rewards. Being honorable will benefit you at home, with friends, and in business relationships