In modern society, we have many examples and stereotypes of what Honour means. From the knights and chivalry, to the Klingons of Star Trek and their unique, brutal, but well codified honour system, to the Orcs of Warcraft and the strict code of the Clans in Battletech, the concept of honour has filled our stories and legends from the writing of the Epic of Gilgamesh. In almost all cases, there are two sides to the coin that constitutes honourable conduct, one where the warrior is honest in all aspects of life and how he handles himself; and two where the warrior must always show courage in the face of death.
Knights were expected to uphold the Noble Habitus throughout their day to day lives, in addition to the time they spent in service to the crown. It was a code to which you dedicated your whole being, even before it was codified, so that you could serve as the best leader, and your people would thrive. Honour was the binding force to the code, to ensure that all aspects of the code were integrated into your lifestyle, and your actions could always be squared by it. When someone entered a room and saw you, the knight with a reputation for honour present, they would immediately know how to conduct themselves with you.
This has a two-sided benefit to it. When a person meets with, and is dealing with a person of honourable reputation, it is easy for them to deal honourably as well. When you know the integrity of the person you’re dealing with, you don’t have to face making a judgement call on them during the negotiation. This makes an honest negotiator much more comfortable, as they will not have to worry about the nobleman trying to use their power to unduly unbalance the negotiation. This can be true of any negotiation, whether monetary, or for service, or to render judgement on a civil matter.
It also made those less honourable take pause. While a generally honourable civil servant, often in service to the knight could be convinced that a negotiation would be more beneficial to both individuals at the expense of a third party, often the village itself, a Knight would as likely as not punish the swindler for his actions. Punishment for betraying a knight’s honour was often as harsh as punishment for murder, for a knight that violated his own honour could expect exile or death as a response.
A knight that violated his own honour usually took the nature of said knight running away from the enemy. In a world where loyalty to your Lord, and a vow to fight on his behalf secured your lifestyle, pusillanimus behaviour, an interesting term for cowardice that is now often shortened to the same slang word used to crudely describe womens’ anatomy, was the worst transgression a Knight could display. Without courage in battle, there was no way the knight could be trusted to hold his lands in trust for his Lord, nor could he be trusted to protect the weak from evil. A knight with no courage, was no knight at all.
Thus this often forms the core of fictional honour systems, with courage in the face of adversity or even certain death being a centerpiece of the honour of entire fictional tribes, clans, or nations. Often in these societies slights are answered for in combat, with challenges ranging from the simple challenge of Klingon culture to the much more ritualized Trials faced by Clanners, which could be organized against any organization level in their culture, even against whole clans. We use these fictional examples to show the extreme of the notion, but also to glorify the concept; while Bushido is no longer a standard, for example, it is still held to be one of the most important codes to have ever existed.
Honour is the glue that binds the Noble Habitus to the person, and synthesizes it with your being. If you intend to utilize the code in your daily life, you must do so with Honour.