A Man of Honor


I'm still enjoying Jon Merz's fascinating character, Lawson, the Vampire Fixer. Think Ray Donovan with fangs. In fact, I would be delighted to see Liev Schreiber play Lawson in the film adaptation of the series. Jon, you with me? Last time, I wrote about Lawson's absolute discipline and my extreme envy of this—admittedly fictional—quality. Today I want to turn my attention to Lawson’s abiding sense of honor. He is an honorable man, or, more accurately, vampire. He says what he means and he does what he says. He follows through on commitments no matter how difficult or inconvenient. Or even dangerous. He can be counted on. He has honor. Honor is a characteristic I admire. 

I spent a bit of time researching the difference between honor and integrity and it appears the lines are blurred. Honor can seem to be an anachronistic concept, particularly when we talk about a code of honor, honor among thieves, and men (particularly) of honor. As best I can discern, honor exists between individuals or among groups. Integrity is more of a solitary pursuit. I strive to live in integrity and make myself right in my own eyes and whatever spiritual score keeper exists. I am honorable when others find me so.

For example, my kids are part of the student body government at their high school. They participate in their Honor Court, where students who have transgressed are judged and disciplined. It is a serious responsibility and my children approach it as such. At their school, the students are assumed to be honorable. There may not be a proctor for exams. Kids leave their backpacks out all over the place without fear of thievery. Teachers believe their students who claim the dog ate their homework without evidence to the contrary. There is an expectation of honesty and integrity that the teachers, administrators and other students place on each individual, each of whom is expected to rise to meet that bar.

There are those who claim that with the advent of free love, unfettered self-expression and the relentless pursuit of self-fulfillment, we, as a society, have lost our honor. And our current leadership aside, I think these authors have a deeper point. The expectations of society have changed, and, therefore, so has our behavior. The societal norm that couples who make a baby together will marry and raise that child is antiquated. And while this may further the cause of that man and woman's perceived happiness -- for one or both of them --it's not entirely clear that the child or our society benefits from those decisions. It is no longer considered important to be honorable and do the right thingnot because premarital sex is wrong or shameful, but because kids raised by both parents tend to—statistically—fare better in life from a socioeconomic and educational standpoint.

Similarly, there are fewer, if any, expectations of honor at work. We used to call honor in the workplace "professionalism," and it involved loyalty (that worked both ways) and a commitment to getting the job done no matter what. I recently had an experience at work that sums up the situation perfectly. I had promised my colleague (who is technically my boss, but he doesn't act that way) that I would finish a paper before the end of the day, but that it would be late. When I got to the office the next day at noon (I had an offsite meeting that morning), he told me with a smile that he'd missed the email I had sent at midnight the day before and just noticed it. In the interim, he had started to put his thoughts down for the paper. Despite the fact that I had said I would get it done. He said he believed I had simply blown him off with no word of warning, but he wasn't angry or disappointed. He just figured, whatever. I, on the other hand, was enraged and disillusioned that he would think I had such little honor. He didn't expect me to work at home after hours, even though I said I would. It never occurred to him to expect honorable behavior.  

It's not clear to me that honor can exist in a vacuum without expectation of its importance. If we believe people will always work in their own self-interest, they will. Saying what we mean and meaning what we say doesn't seem to be as imperative as I was taught. But perhaps I'm becoming an old fuddy duddy blinded by nostalgia for a past that bears little resemblance to my memories. But I feel like honor held more sway back in the day. 

In the final analysis, I think I agree with those who claim that honor is mostly an artifact of a nobler past. But, I will try, in my small way, to live honorably, even if that is not a recognized value and perhaps convert it to a more personal code of integrity. Finally, I will enjoy, with nostalgic pleasure, reading about a centuries-old vampire who conducts himself according to an earlier era and lends a bit of shine to our times. Thanks, Jon Merz, for Lawson and his code of honor. That vampire elevates my truth through the fantasy of his honor.