Honor vs. Fame

famous face I attended a local area youth pastor’s meeting today. Our guest speaker was a youth parole officer for Washington state. He gave us some interesting challenges to think about, primarily that young people need a supportive support system (my condensed version, not his).

In other words, it’s all well and good to have a support system in place for teens who are at risk, but if that system isn’t actually supportive of the individual (rather than just making sure that services are provided for while the teen is at risk), there will be little actual change.

This is what got me thinking: I believe that a fundamental shift has occurred in American society: we have moved from an honor base to a fame base. Instead of living one’s life in such a way that long-term decent behavior is rewarded with increasing amounts of honor and respect, the emphasis has shifted to fame or notoriety. That which gets one noticed is more important than the content of the action.

I think I see evidence of this especially on the MySpace pages of the teens with which I work. The pages are electronic monuments to self; more than just avenues for self-expression, I’m often seeing desperate attempts to garner attention from an ever-increasing fan base. The more “friends” one has, the higher self-perceived value one has.

I realize that this is just my opinion (I have not yet run across any sociological studies that deal with honor-culture vs fame-culture), but I’m pretty sure I’m correct: we, as Americans, lift up that which is famous (or infamous) as worthy of contemplation. Witness the proliferation of celebrity magazines and websites which only to feed the appetite of a fame-addicted culture.

This thought came about due to the observation given in today’s meeting: what kind of difference is there between providing a teen with positive affirmation (read: honor) as opposed to primarily providing corrective attention (read: infamy).

Perhaps if we all chose to show honor to those in our own circle of influence, we could counter the addiction of fame in our lives, and in the lives of those for whom we care.

Fame is fleeting and ephemeral; honor is more difficult to attain, but worth the extra effort.

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1 Response to “Honor vs. Fame”


  1. 1 Norm Erlendson December 16, 2012 at 2:34 am

    You are on to something that needs more attention paid to it. New channels of social media increase our chances to capture our 15 minutes of fame.


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