Honor, Integrity, Honesty, and Dignity

Quite often a guilty subject will invoke such expressions as, “I swear to God I’m telling the truth,” “I hope my mother drops dead if I’m lying,” “I’ll swear on a stack of Bibles,” etc. Although expressions of this type cannot be considered as symptoms of deception, they frequently are used by guilty subjects in an effort to lend forcefulness or conviction to their assertions of innocence.

Inbau & Reid, Criminal Interrogation and Confessions, 1962.

In the interrogation room, the truthfulness of the subject is naturally in question. The man who proclaims his honesty (when it is not otherwise challenged) is probably not being honest. When dealing with someone who tells you he’s honest, keep a hand on your wallet.

Likewise integrity. If you have integrity, people will know it without being told. If they don’t or if you aren’t, telling them won’t convince them. In fact, if people don’t know you to have integrity and you claim to, they will (appropriately) question why you should think it necessary to protest. The more offended noises you make in response, the more their questions will seem justified.

In the same way that unprovokedly proclaiming one’s own integrity calls into question that integrity, so does righteous concern over one’s honor and dignity reveal a lack of honor and dignity.

Honor and dignity are not something that someone else can take away. If you have honor and dignity, it doesn’t matter what people think of you. Dignity and honor are in how you behave, not how people see you. If you’re upset that someone might be depriving you of either, you’ve already lost—no, surrendered—it.

Yet people die over honor and dignity—or over the perceived loss of honor or dignity. That’s what road rage crimes are often about—loss of control, perceived loss of dignity, escalation (“I’ll show him!”), wrinkled sheet metal, gunplay. In a flash one person has gone from defending his honor to being dead, and another has gone from resenting being treated with indignity to a jail cell.

Which is stupid, since each of them had, from the beginning, the option of driving calmly away on with dignity intact.

Every prosecution in Texas is pursued in the name of “the peace and dignity of the State.”

Which is stupid, too. Peace, sure, but the dignity of the State of Texas? Anything—human or not—that has to punish people for affronts on its dignity doesn’t have any.

0 responses to “Honor, Integrity, Honesty, and Dignity”

  1. “Anything—human or not—that has to punish people for affronts on its dignity doesn’t have any.”

    There was a point in my life when I quite literally cursed God. While I think He heard me, I don’t think He held it against me or was offended or hurt by what I said.

  2. I might be inclined to file “Peace and Dignity” under the lofty, stilted language of our mid-19th Century forefathers … they didn’t have access to the number of works and authors that we now have, but the ones they had, they read VERY well. The result was a very formal English … read Lincoln’s letters or Stonewall Jacksons.

    And, remember, previous generations identified with the state (Texas) more than they did the State (The United States of America) … I can imagine a society where people reasonably believed a Texan shooting another on a mud line constituted a crime against the dignity of the State …

  3. I’ve always wondered whether “against the peace and dignity of the State” can be construed as necessary elements to every offense? SHouldn’t they have to be proven if the law requires them to be alleged?

  4. I think that you make a good point that the death penalty does not protect dignity because dignity is not something someone can take away from you with their bad behavior. This is an interesting way to look at the death penalty. Most people look at it and talk about it from an ethical or an economical point of view. However, the concept of dignity really does deal with ethics and Social Justice. I liked the way you compared road rage to the death penalty, showing how no one really wins.

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