What is the difference between honor and morality, and is one superior to the other? Before reading A Song of Ice and Fire, I didn’t think there was any real, clear answer to this question—after all, wouldn’t a moral person also be an honorable person? Furthermore, if someone has honor, we make the assumption that their honor must be based on the morality of their character. In other words, the two of them should go hand in hand.
Honor is a major theme within the books, and while a character’s honor may be praised, we can see throughout the course of the series that having honor doesn’t always mean having morals. And in some cases, having honor can be downright selfish or harmful to other people.
Sacred trust is one of the most fundamental elements of religion, and yet it’s rarely talked about explicitly. Religious belief of any kind is built on relationships—relationships between the divine and the human, between the community and the human, between powerful humans and humans without power, and between humans of equal footing. All of these relationships are based on trust. Most religious people have some kind of trust that their God(s) won’t abandon them in this life or the next. We trust our communities to give us support when we’re in need (spiritually or materially) and we honor our obligation as a member of the community to help others. It doesn’t matter if that community is found in a one-room chapel, a megachurch stadium, or an internet forum. Religious people trust their leaders, who have been given the authority and ability to act (essentially, power), to lead their communities in responsible ways consonant with their belief system’s moral codes. We trust they won’t just make things up as they go along or abuse their power for their own gain, we trust they’ll use their education and experience and wisdom to guide others rightly. And we trust our equals to help us in the day to day lived practice of our faiths.
But what happens when that trust is broken? It’s a vehicle for compelling storytelling.
Spoilers for Game of Thrones, Firefly, and Serenity after the jump.