Solon’s Tenets: Integrity, Not Oaths

Jett Rocks.jpg
Jett Rocks” by Doorstepsnail at en.wikipedia Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Consider your honour, as a gentleman,
of more weight than an oath.

Put more trust in nobility of character
than in an oath.

Trust good character more than promises.

– various translations of Solon the Athenian’s first counsel

An’ I don’t give a damn ’bout my bad reputation.

– Joan Jett

I am blessed with friends who speak about things like honor when discussing the daily dilemmas we all face. When I consider my friends, they all have reputations that precede them. I think now of two friends who are unfailingly kind and friendly and who to my knowledge have never said an unkind word about anyone. I have friends who say things clearly, bluntly, unvarnished and yet not cruel, who are known for their fairness and conviction.

Looking at the above quotes, Solon seems almost quaint in this age of aggressive individualism. Solon, like many philosophers, is writing from the perspective of how to be a happy, harmonious, and productive member of society. Being part of a community requires a consideration of interdependency and interconnectedness that is often at odds with individualism.

For me, the challenge of this tenet is to not consider what I can receive or how I can be accommodated, but what I can do and how I can behave to be a blessing to others. What behaviors can I cultivate and which ones should I curb? What sort of reputation do I have, and how can my actions improve it? How can I be a trustworthy person to those around me? Am I someone people can rely on? And in what capacity can they rely on me?

How do I make a practice of giving a damn about having, and deserving, a good reputation?


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