Happiness Through Honorable Actions
By Julian Kalmar
Do you want to live with a strong sense of peacefulness, happiness, goodness, and self-respect? Honorable actions help you create this life of good feelings.
As the American Heritage Dictionary defines it, honor is "Personal integrity maintained without legal or other obligation." It's a deep sense of rightness in our choice of actions. However, this sense of rightness does not display itself as ugly self-righteous behavior. It is a quiet personal experience of rightness that leads to a lasting sense of well-being.
Here's an example to show how honorable actions create happiness: Say a store clerk fails to charge us for an item. If we don't say anything, we receive an immediate reward, don't we? We feel excited by our good fortune, and could leave the store with a sense of glee. We made no mistake and we made no effort to cheat them. So, why not allow the error to benefit us? It seems we would still be able to respect ourselves afterwards.
To discover why we should take honorable action, we need only play out each possible future... If we keep silent, and profit from the clerk's mistake, we would leave the store with adrenaline coursing through our veins; we would get away with something. We would drive home with a sense of sneaky excitement. Later we might tell our spouses or friends about our good fortune.
On the other hand, if we tell the clerk about the uncharged item, the clerk would be grateful and thank us for our honesty. We would leave the store with a quiet sense of honor that we might never share with another soul.
In the first case, where we don't tell the clerk, a couple of things would happen. Deep down inside we would know ourselves as a type of thief, as evidenced by our sneaky excitement. In the process, we would lose some peace of mind and self-respect. We would also demonstrate that we cannot be trusted, since we advertise our dishonor by telling our spouses and friends. We tarnish our own reputations by telling others.
In contrast, bringing the error to the clerk's attention causes different things to happen. Immediately the clerk knows us to be honorable. They like us. They remember us thereafter and treat us well. Upon leaving the store, we reflect on our sense of goodness. We feel honorable and our self-respect is boosted. Our kindness to the clerk is reflected back to us immediately and over the long term when they see us again.
Whenever we take honorable action we gain the deep internal rewards of self-respect, peace of mind, goodness, and a sense of nobility. All of these greatly contribute to our sense of well-being. Honorable actions create happiness.
There is a beautiful positive cycle that is created by living a life of honorable actions. Honorable thoughts lead to honorable actions. Honorable actions lead us to a happier existence. And it's easy to again think and act honorably when we're happy.
Unfortunately, there is a negative version of this cycle. Dishonorable thoughts lead to dishonorable actions that lead to pain and unhappiness. Unhappiness leads to more dishonorable thoughts.
So, strive for the positive cycle. While it can be difficult to start, once it's started, it's easy to continue. The opportunities for expressing honor - and thus for becoming happier - are all around us. In our work-lives we express honor by always doing quality work, never leaving details unattended, working in the company's best interest, treating customers and employees well, never working in a divisive spirit, and striving to promote harmony.
In our larger lives we express honor through honest and ethical actions, being punctual, doing what we promise, holding ourselves accountable for our actions, treating others with respect, and so on. Although the list is endless, the common theme is a sense of quiet rightness. We feel quiet; at peace with our thoughts and actions.
Many people look to books of laws, or religious teachings to know what is honorable, but you can almost always tell honorable actions by consulting your inner spirit. Simply ask yourself which course of action creates the least internal and external turmoil in the long run. Predictions of your mental quietude are good guides.
Just as we did with the inattentive store clerk example, ask yourself if you would be more or less peaceful; happier or unhappier in the long run; more self-respecting or less; more honorable or not. If you always choose the honorable route, you are never plagued by the fear of "being discovered" and no one can ever threaten to expose your past. That brings the peace of mind essential for genuine happiness.