Why do the Ancient Values of Honour & Glory
Have so Little Resonance in Secular Societies?
Praise of other men is only tolerable in so far as each man in the audience thinks that he too could perform the exploits which are being praised. Anything which goes beyond these limits incites his envy and his scepticism.
Pericles (495–429 BC)
HONOUR: high respect; esteem: his portrait hangs in the place of honour; a person or thing that brings credit: you are an honour to our profession; adherence to what is right or to a conventional standard of conduct: I must as a matter of honour avoid any taint of dishonesty; a privilege: the great poet of whom it is my honour to speak tonight; an exalted position: the honour of being horse of the year; a thing conferred as a distinction, esp. an official award for bravery or achievement: the highest military honours.
GLORY: high renown or honour won by notable achievements: to fight and die for the glory of one’s nation; praise, worship, and thanksgiving offered to God: glory be to God; magnificence; great beauty: the train has been restored to all its former glory; (often glories) a thing that is beautiful or distinctive; a special cause for pride, respect, or delight: the glories of Paris; the splendor and bliss of heaven: with the saints in glory.
There is no getting away from the fact that [the idea of glory] is very prominent in the New Testament and in early Christian writings. Salvation is constantly associated with palms, crowns, white robes, thrones, and splendour like the sun and stars. All this makes no immediate appeal to me at all, and in that respect I fancy I am a typical modern. Glory suggests two ideas to me, of which one seems wicked and the other ridiculous. Either glory means to me fame, or it means luminosity. As for the first, since to be famous means to be better known than other people, the desire for fame appears to me as a competitive passion and therefore of hell rather than heaven. As for the second, who wishes to become a kind of living electric light bulb?
When I began to look into this matter I was shocked to find such different Christians as Milton, Johnson and Thomas Aquinas taking heavenly glory quite frankly in the sense of fame or good report. But not fame conferred by our fellow creatures—fame with God, approval or (I might say) “appreciation” by God. And then, when I had thought it over, I saw that this view was scriptural; nothing can eliminate from the parable the divine accolade, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” With that, a good deal of what I had been thinking all my life fell down like a house of cards.
C. S. Lewis
God is not willing to do everything, and thus take away our free will and that share of glory which belongs to us.
[The] selective or undemocratic quality in Nature, at least in so far as it affects human life, is neither good nor evil. According as spirit exploits or fails to exploit this Natural situation, it gives rise to one or the other. It permits, on the one hand, ruthless competition, arrogance, and envy: it permits on the other, modesty and (one of our greatest pleasures) admiration. A world in which I was really (and not merely by a useful legal fiction) ‘as good as everyone else,’ in which I never looked up to anyone wiser or cleverer or braver or more learned than I, would be insufferable. The very ‘fans’ of the cinema stars and the famous footballers know better than to desire that!
C. S. Lewis
The tragedy of life is in what dies inside a man while he lives—the death of genuine feeling, the death of inspired response, the awareness that makes it possible to feel the pain or the glory of other men in yourself.
There now appeared on the ravaged scene an Angel of Deliverance, the noblest patriot of France, the most splendid of her heroes, the most beloved of her saints, the most inspiring of all her memories, the peasant Maid, the ever-shining, every glorious Joan of Arc.
No habit is so important to acquire [as the ability] to delight in fine characters and noble actions.
This admirable heroine, to whom the more generous superstition of the ancients would have erected altars, was, on pretense of heresy and magic, delivered over alive to the flames, and expiated by that dreadful punishment the signal services which she had rendered to her prince and to her native country.
[David Hume, as befits a deep philosophical sceptic, is more restrained in his praise of Joan of Arc than Winston Churchill, who wrote, ‘Joan was a being so uplifted from the ordinary run of mankind that she finds no equal in a thousand years.’ Nevertheless, if pressed, I doubt that Hume would have disputed the appropriateness of the word ‘glorious’ in her connection. Joan, herself, was as free of modern scepticism or cynicism about honour and glory as was Shakespeare’s Henry V or Theodore Roosevelt. The following exchange is from the trial record.]
INTERROGATOR: Did they not wave your standard round the head of your King when he was consecrated at Reims?
JOAN: No, not that I know of.
INTERROGATOR: Why was it taken to the Church of Reims for the consecration and given preference over those of other captains?
JOAN: It had shared in the pain, it was only right it should share in the honour.
[In July 1429, shortly after Joan had raised the siege at Orleans, Jean Chartier, who was in some senses the official historian of the court, exalted her in poetic prose:]
Behold her there, she who does not seem to have come from any place in the world, but to have been sent from heaven to raise up the head and shoulders of a Gaul beaten down into the earth. . . O singular virgin, worthy of all glories, of all praises, of divine honours, you are the greatness of the kingdom, you are the light of the lily, you are the brilliance, you are the glory, not only of the French, but also of all Christians.
There’s no glory like those who save their country.
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Shortly after he was appointed assistant secretary of the navy, Theodore Roosevelt spoke at the Naval War College: “Cowardice is the unpardonable sin. No triumph of peace is quite so great as the supreme triumphs of war. The nation must be willing to pour out its blood, its treasure, and its tears like water rather than submit to the loss of honour and renown.”
There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell.
William Tecumseh Sherman
Thoughts that Involve Honour & Glory
A life spent in making mistakes is not only more honourable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
George Bernard Shaw
In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail.
A victory without danger is a triumph without glory.
The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.
half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled;
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!
Alexander Pope (from An Essay on Man)
All of these [Shakespearean] tragedies start out with the humanist assumption that life, although full of sorrow, is worth living, and that Man is a noble animal.
Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.
After Judas had left, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man’s glory is revealed; now God’s glory is revealed through him. And if God’s glory is revealed through him, then God will reveal the glory of the Son of Man in himself, and he will do so at once.”
Glory follows virtue as if it were its shadow.
Act well your part, there all the honour lies.
Glory gives herself only to those who have always dreamed of her.
Charles de Gaulle
He will have true glory who despises it.
How friendly all men would be one with another, if no regard were paid to honour and money! I believe it would be a remedy for everything.
St Teresa of Avila
Our society honours the powerful and punishes the weak.
I could not love thee, Dear, so much,
Loved I not Honour more.
Nothing ever perplexes an adversary so much as an appeal to his honour.
Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet, and blossom in their dust.
Grace is but glory begun, and glory is but grace perfected.
Science is bound, by the everlasting vow of honour, to face fearlessly every problem which can be fairly presented to it.
I grow daily to honour facts more and more, and theory less and less. A fact, it seems to me, is a great thing.
The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.
Johann Sebastian Bach
of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike the inevitable hour:
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.
The chief glory of every people arises from its authors.
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.
The noblest spirit is most strongly attracted by the love of glory.
James A. Baldwin
If it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
Henry V (Henry)
To be ambitious of true honour, of the true glory and perfection of our natures, is the very principle and incentive of virtue.
I was made to understand . . . my glory would consist in becoming a great saint! This desire might seem presumptuous, seeing how weak and imperfect I was and still am . . . yet I always feel the same fearless certainty that I shall become a great saint.
St Thérèse of Lisieux
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