People who covet honor look and act “normal” and often show no outward signs of imbalance; to the contrary, they often dress and act to attract the honor they so badly crave. But as Pirkei Avos teaches us, the more you run after honor, the more it runs away from you. Hence, these outwardly normal and even likable people are trapped in vicious cycles of failure and disappointment, cycles that will inevitably be explained away by professionals as sourcing from any number of causes – rarely the actual one.
Some of us may know an absolutely incredible single man or woman who just can’t find the right person or a dedicated mother whose kids are all in various stages of rebellion. Maybe we have a wonderful friend who has just emerged from a third marriage, and we can’t for the life of us figure out why. Can the hidden lurking menace perhaps be the desire for honor?
One thing that makes the desire for kavod so formidable a foe is that to so many of us it is “normal.” Most of us would agree that it is “better” to be a doctor than a nurse, or to drive a BMW rather than a Honda. These are normal, even acceptable beliefs. To some people, pursuing honor is almost a religious imperative, since so many of us consider it “wrong” to be working at a menial job at age 30 or to be – and subsequently to marry someone – overweight. Overcoming the desire for honor (which is hard enough to identify in the first place) involves imagining a way to be happy without the things our materialistic society tells us are important. This takes a large amount of applied creativity and introspection, perhaps even a lifetime of it.
There is no simple formula for a single man to undo years of conditioning that has him believe an acceptable relationship requires a perfect woman with a perfect body whose hair is never out of place, even when she is mopping the floor. Many men – even those believed to be a “great catch” – are single for precisely this reason. They are trapped in a doomed race for honor because they have somehow been conditioned to believe that what is honored is “right” and what is not honored is “wrong.”
I am hoping that by writing this article I can bring us as a community just a little bit closer to finding a solution as we grapple with it together.
See No Easy Cure