Two concepts that are not discussed very often today in our culture, but for which go hand in hand to have a purposeful life are duty and honor. Duty is the obligation, either moral or legal, to uphold your responsibilities and to take upon tasks and actions when called upon. Duties are be thrust upon you such as being part of jury or registering to be eligible for military service but also done voluntarily such as keeping your community clean by picking up trash, giving money to a charity, being part of the local school board or town forum.
There are many variations on duty, but what they all have in common is to think of more than just yourself and to be responsible to those people around you. We are duty-bound by law in many such cases, but we are also duty-bound by morals and values that are passed on from generation to generation.
Being dutiful is conscientiously being able to know what your duties in life are, pursue them vigorously, and to conduct them in a moral manner. Duties may not be easy or fun to fulfill, but we have them in place so that society can function at a higher level. If no one was duty-bound to others, selfishness, greed, and egocentric behavior would replace it, which would cause the larger community and society to collapse over time. Lack of duties breeds this kind of behavior whether they are mandatory or not. If everyone is out for themselves and not able to look after others or think of their behavior’s effect on other people, it would create what we know to be as a ‘dog eat dog’ world.
When you fulfill your duties, legally bound or morally footed, you uphold the basic contract as a citizen and as a human being, to help improve your community and the society to some degree. If everyone fulfills their duties, trust, confidence, and belief in each other will be much more assured. If nobody does what is required or expected of them, nothing substantive can get done. The more duties we fulfill and the more we look out for another rather than ourselves, the better off we are to be when we commit to these obligations.
Duties can be granted and often must be enforced to be fulfilled but if we each uphold the duties we are given and see each other as all being on the same page, other duties that we voluntarily take on can be added on if we see that the system is working, and people are putting in their fair share. If a few individuals, especially if they leaders or representatives of their community, are found to be neglectful of their duties, and especially lied about fulfilling such duties, it can easily cascade to where the average person sees this and will unfortunately not find the duties they have been given as being as necessary to commit to if they see those who put them into place or have mandated them do not fulfill them as well.
Regardless of where you find yourself in the overall society, a leader, a citizen, a representative, a voter, etc., we are all held to the same duties and obligations that we commit ourselves to by law or by morality. If we all uphold those duties through acts of good faith and completing tasks that are insured to us, the better off everyone will be.
However, if duties are neglected, discouraged, or done away with even if they are mandated, the whole society will suffer as a result due to a loss of trust, faith, or belief in what upholds this basic sense of equality that we have to be beholden to the same duties as everyone else is regardless of age, sex, race, religion, ethnicity, etc. Now, it is commendable to do your duty, but it is even better to do so with honor.
Being honorable or conducting oneself with honor is taking the duties you are given to uphold or the tasks that come with such duties is to perform such duties with integrity, accountability, and trustworthiness. It is one thing to do your duty and it is another thing to do your duty well.
You can think of someone who is elected to be a representative of a community, town, city, or nation who will use the position for egotistical purposes and to twiddle the time away while doing nothing of honor to make sure the people who elected him or her will benefit as a result. They have been given the honor of representing their community or a nation and have squandered it by neglecting the privilege of having such a position to do good on behalf of others. There is no honor in that even if they are technically fulfilling the duty of public service.
Duties can be bestowed on soldiers, politicians, community leaders, public figures of influence, religious clergy, teachers, etc. and they can perform them because they have been trained or are seen as qualified to fulfill them. However, the question arises is if they are doing their duties with honor? Some will only do the bare minimum and will only think of themselves while having their position of power or influence wrapped up. Others will use their newfound duties to abuse their position for financial or social gain and lie to say that they did not do anything dishonorable to begin with.
Luckily, there will be those people in positions of status who will conduct themselves honorably and seek to uphold that trust bestowed upon them by being transparent, accountable, and forthright. A good leader or example of someone who conducts themselves with honor is that they do not only do their duties as expected of them, but they also seek out those in a similar position or authority who are not doing their duties. They will not only conduct themselves with honor intact but make sure they are holding others in their position accountable and to find out if their honor is there.
If not, that person of authority or influence would work to ensure that the individual without honor even while having done their duties albeit in a lackluster manner are held to account. To uphold that trust across a society where we all must do our duties and to do so with honor, those without honor should lose their given duties when it is found that they are not holding themselves to that standard. When we each hold ourselves to an honorable standard by doing the duties bestowed upon us to the best of our abilities, then the larger community or society will benefit as a result.
Without duties, there is no honor to be had. If duties are being done without honor, no functioning society will result. It is important to understand how much these two concepts feed off each other. One cannot exist without the other and if one concept is neglected, the other will suffer as a result. We all must commit the duties and obligations bestowed upon us whether by law or by creed, but duties must also be performed to high standards, both morally and ethically. Performing one’s duties without honor cannot work and nor can having honor without upholding one’s duties.