Saturday, August 31, 2013
I am going to take a little departure from talking about cases. I have and have had many courageous clients. It's the nature of my business that someone who wants to bring a discrimination case must have a modicum of courage. These are not the types of cases for the faint of heart. Today, though, I have been thinking about honor. It is the courageous, honorable clients whom are the ones I love.
What is it that makes a person honorable? An honorable person is one who is deserving of respect. And who deserves respect? Most of us, including me, have acted in dishonorable ways. Dishonorable acts include lying, cheating, stealing, betraying, manipulating. It's easy to be negative. What does it take to be a truly honorable person, worthy of the respect of others:
1. Speaking the truth even when it is unpopular, while avoiding needless unkind words;
2. Being loyal even when it is tempting to be disloyal;
3. Having empathy, especially with one's opponents and people with whom one has little in common;
4. Giving with no expectation of receiving anything in return except the joy of giving:
5. Standing up for what one believes in even when it is unpopular to do so;
6. Truly being able to forgive others for just about anything.
I know this is a simple list, but it seems fairly comprehensive to me. When someone needlessly hurts someone else or strives for personal power or personal wealth above all else, it is always a reflection of some underlying conflict in that person. Unfortunately, people who are hurt by others oftentimes go out and hurt even more people. Angry people hurt others, while oftentimes not meaning to do so.
So, how does this relate to the practice of law? The practice of law is a microcosm of the act of living. We have developed a set of rules with which to operate so that we don't destroy each other. Law is eminently logical and practical. People aren't. It is possible to fiercely promote what one believes in or to defend one's person and principles without annihilating the opponent. The fiercest advocate can be the gentlest person. It is not easy to be honorable, but honorable people do not expect perfection. They are ready to forgive transgressions. Living honorably is the key to being peaceful and content. Not ironically, the best advocate is the one that acts with honor.