A Question of Honor

While teaching years ago, I had an interesting exchange with a group of students in my sophomore English class. They were working together on a project, and I overheard one of them say, “Did you see how Mr. So-and-So (another teacher) left the room during our test? He deserves for us to cheat.”

This totally caught my ear, and I inserted myself in their conversation. “What do you mean he deserves for you to cheat?” and the girl replied, “Hey, if he’s going to leave the room and basically invite us to cheat on the test, then I’m going to take him up on it! He deserves it for being so stupid.”




This, of course, did not sit well with me. “So any teacher that doesn’t keep watch over you like a hawk is stupid and basically giving you the right to cheat?” The students chimed in in agreement.

I asked them if they considered themselves to be honorable people, and they all kind of looked at each other like I was speaking Cantonese. I rephrased my question: “How do you know you have honor if you never get the chance to be honorable?” I explained that if they are always treated as untrustworthy and ready to do the wrong thing, they would never learn whether or not if—left solely up to them—they would do the right thing.

We talked some more about it, but ultimately I did not change their minds—at least no one let on that I might have. As far as they were concerned, it was the teacher’s responsibility to make sure they did not cheat—not theirs.

External factors, not internal ones, decided their behavior. It was one of those days as a teacher that put a ding in my armor of hope.




I’m a worrier. It’s in my DNA, unfortunately, though I desperately try to let it go as I know I should. But I just find too many things to worry about, and one of them is the state of honor in our world.

How we behave when “no one is looking” is taking new paths with our growing technological world. And, sadly, as far as I see it, too many of those paths are scary and mean—and sometimes terribly destructive.

As I’ve written before, the way people feel entitled to make hurtful, nasty comments online really hurts my heart. It seems that the ability to write anything you want with little recourse has emboldened an awful lot of people to say an awful lot of awful.

Recently in the news there’s been coverage on an app called Yik Yak that allows people to post completely anonymously, and it has become so brutal that schools are asking the developers to block it in the radius of all schools.

Certainly we have had bullies and jerks since the dawn of time, and many a bathroom wall has been scrawled with malicious comments, but with the ability to reach entire schools and beyond with the touch of a “send,” the ability to be scathingly cruel is reaching new—and powerful—lows.


bathroom wall


When did this become the norm? It’s not okay that our world is increasingly more tolerant of snipe and snark.

Even sites like Yelp have created a culture of the haughty know-it-alls who are ready to rip any business they feel “deserves” it. Don’t get me wrong—I believe in the concept of community reviews—but there is a way to go about it that shares your opinion without trying to take down whatever business is in your sites.




Would these “reviewers” say this to the business owner in person?

Personally, I think that’s a pretty good gauge about whether or not most comments should be made. If you’re not willing to say it right to the person’s face, then don’t blast it for everyone else in the world to take in. People’s livelihoods are at stake, and while it might feed someone’s ego to make snipey comments about the meal they had at a local restaurant or customer service they received at the dry cleaners, I ask that we keep honor in mind as we make those comments.




I’m not saying we need to only leave positive reviews or comments. I have let several companies know when I have been unhappy with their service or products. (For instance, there was the time I told the hotel rep directly that our stay was really poor and they told me to take it up with corporate, and when I did, corporate’s remedy was to give me 30% off of my next stay at the very hotel I was complaining about. Sigh.)

But we can be more honorable, can’t we? Can’t we comment as though there is an actual human being on the receiving end of our words….because…there is.

Anonymity shouldn’t breed cruelty. It shouldn’t be a shield behind which we can throw stones to hurt others. It shouldn’t be a way to “get even” in a world where there’s already plenty of hurt to go around.

I can’t see how being able to get away with things—be it cheating on a test or making mean-spirited comments—makes anyone walk taller or feel better about themselves. But honor sure does.




There’s a wonderful quote from To Kill a Mockingbird about the character Atticus Finch from his neighbor Miss Maudie. She says he’s “the same in his house as he is on the public streets.” A high compliment on the value of being true to yourself and acting honorably.

As far as I’m concerned, I think the world needs a LOT more Atticus Finches.


Beyond the Status Line

Beyone the Status LineDo Facebook status lines ever pop up in your head? Or maybe you have something cross your mind and think, “Hey, that would make a good tweet”?

Just like television news helped our attention spans shrink down to “sound bites,” it looks like our love of social media is training our brains to share in 140 character life snippets. Or at least that’s what we frequently present to the world.


Oh, but there’s so much more…right?

Everyone’s got a story…and it’s a helluva lot richer than any Facebook status, Instagram filtered photo, or even series of tweets can do justice to. Don’t get me wrong—I love “the Facebook” and “the Twitter”—but we must not fool ourselves into thinking we know people through these mediums. We can know more about them but not truly know them.

I’ve written before about how social media filters our lives, but I want to go beyond that here.

Beyond the status line.

“Real” life offers us a chance to look people in the eye and ask them how they are…but often it goes something like this:


“Hey, how are you?”
“Fine. How ‘bout yourself?”
“Pretty good. You have a good one.”
“Yeah, you, too.”


Maybe that’s why so many of us love Facebook—I have to admit that in the years I’ve been on it, I’ve never seen a status that says, “Today I’m fine.” No…people typically share a specific something, be it a fun moment of the day or a frustration or where they are enjoying a meal…We get a glimpse into a detail of their lives.

But it is a glimpse—and a crafted one at that.


Here's a little something I shared a while back.
Here’s a little something I shared a while back.



What is the real story? Beyond the “I’m fines” and the pictures of spring break excursions lurks…real life.

I’m a big fan of real life. It’s messy and chaotic and often quite hard.

But it’s real.

In between getting the work done one night at one of my part-time jobs, I learned about a single dad’s journey to take care of his daughter, a family’s anguish over having to make a choice about life support for a loved one, a man struggling to be a good role model to his seven kids, a young woman trying to find her way in life, and a friend’s hospital stay.

And I wasn’t pretending to be Barbara Walters by asking probing questions—I just paid attention and listened.

Obviously, each and every one of their stories helped me to know them better. To understand that their lives have complications and challenges that, while they may not be similar to mine, are something that I can connect with and share in. We talked beyond the status line.

While I may not have that many stories shared with me every day, it does amaze me how much I can learn about someone just by being interested and listening.

Everyone has a story…a life…that is layered and multi-faceted and…theirs. And we need to remember that when it may seem like others are skipping through life without a care, leaving us feeling like “they” have their acts together and “we” don’t.

Life is hard. It can be downright exhausting, overwhelming, and scary. And while some may seem to have it “easier” or “better” than others, life isn’t supposed to be a competition, is it?

I’ve never understood the joy some people have over seeing a Justin Bieber or a Lindsay Lohan struggle or fail. Someone’s downfall doesn’t inherently raise anyone else up. Why the delight? I have no idea what it must be like to be so famous, but I bet it isn’t as awesome as many people assume. At least I know my friends like me for who I am (or more accurately in spite of that) and not what I can do for them. What must it be like to never know if people love you just because you’re you? I bet it’s damn hard.

Maybe that grass is greener…and maybe not.

Everyone’s grass can be green…or brown…or trampled on from time to time. Everyone’s grass needs nurturing. Everyone’s grass thrives with some care and watering and weeding.




We should rejoice not only in our own green grass, but the rest of the world’s rolling green lawns, too. I mean, why not? Doesn’t it just make for a more beautiful world?

But I digress. (Now that most of the snow is gone (for now…trust me, I’m not taking it for granted) I guess my mind is stuck on the green of spring!)

Sometimes the “I’m fines” are all we’re up to offering, I know. I totally get that. While I’ve always been a pretty good ear for others to bend, I’m but a youngster in the world of vulnerability. It’s not easy—but I am learning that it is critical in truly connecting with those I love, so I’m working on it.

But some days even 140 characters is more than I want to share.

I guess that what I aim to encourage here is that we remember that what we see in the world around us probably isn’t the full story…and the full story is worth knowing.

That beyond the succinct status lines of life, the full story can lead us to understand that we are not alone in this world. That while our blessings and challenges may be different, we still share in them…and can encourage one another…and lift one another up.

And that makes the grass greener for the whole wide world.

My Year in Review…Social Media Style

Reflecting back... (This was a pic I posted on FB.)
Reflecting back…
(This was a pic I posted on FB.)

It’s that time of year where we reflect on the previous 12 months and decide what changes we would like to make for the coming year. According to Facebook, which now has a feature that shows your “year in review,” my 2013 has been a happy year with various milestones to celebrate.

This amuses me. It looks like the way Facebook creates your year is by taking a random assemblage of your posts with the highest number of likes. Makes sense—in a Facebookian way. Likes = validation, and validation = reality in the social media world.

This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy Facebook, though. I do. Social media, when kept in context, can be wonderful. Out of context…it can be ridiculous or even painful.

I have a few friends who do not “do” Facebook—for various reasons, including “stupid,” “I don’t have time for that crap,” “I don’t want to be a slave to it,” and “I don’t need people snooping around in my personal stuff.” Of course, they have every right to choose not to be on the site, but my response to them is almost always “it is what you make of it.”

Your social world is up to you. And I guess that is precisely what can be the good and bad of it. While some people do post the minute details of their days, most of my FB friends are judicious with what they post, and I get a peek into their lives that I wouldn’t have in an otherwise busy world.

And what is it we are peeking at? Many times when a person chooses what they deem to be “Facebook-worthy,” it’s that they are having fun somewhere or perhaps sharing a slice of life that made them smile. The good stuff.

Another pic I posted that was well "liked." A nice night out downtown.
Another pic I posted that was well “liked.” A nice night out downtown.

But there have also been many times where people have posted something where they needed support—maybe moral support or prayers—for a trouble on their heart and in their lives. This can be the very good stuff of Facebook. It gives me a chance to listen and offer compassion. To let someone know that I “heard” them when they were calling out. It may not be much, but it’s something.

When my mother was rehabilitating from a serious health issue and I asked people to send her cards…Voilà. Cards appeared. How cool is that?

I don’t often post that kind of thing, though, and my Year in Review reflects that. While my mom needing cards to brighten her day made the cut, many other harsh realities did not. And that’s okay. My Facebook 2013 will not accurately reflect all of my 2013 because I get to choose. Simple as that.

And if we remember that most people post with a filter, then perhaps we can reduce the statistics that show that people often feel worse after being on social media. Who needs or wants that?

We ought to be able to share in each other’s joys without it taking anything away from us. But, of course, it always helps to be considerate in what you’re posting, too. (It’s never fun to see photos of a big party where you wonder why you weren’t invited to it.) A little “golden rule” can go a long way.

So with an understanding that people typically choose the “good stuff” to show us, and a consideration that we shouldn’t flaunt our “good stuff,” Facebook can be a great way to stay in touch. Because of FB, I’ve been able to share in the joys and woes of friends that I couldn’t possibly have time to keep connected with in the “real” world. I am grateful for that.

Overall, if my 2013 was a student, I would be sending it to the Dean’s Office. But when I look at my 2013 on Facebook, I am reminded of some of the blessings that I have forgotten amidst the other craziness. What a nice gift.

I’d like to take a moment to say thank you for your readership. I know how hectic and full life is, so I appreciate it very much that you take some time out of your crazy day to read my words. Thank you.

I hope you all have a wonderful New Year and a 2014 full of blessings, peace, and hope…because…here it comes!