There’s a pivotal question at the core of the King’s honor system: Who is responsible to confront? The King’s Honor Code gives a straightforward, yet immensely challenging, reply: Every student is honor bound to confront any other student who breaches the Honor Code.
If that doesn’t grate against the spirit of our age, I don’t know what does. Live and let live is the motto of our day. Not my business. Do whatever you want. Ain’t my issue.
That sentiment is akin to that of a man who once deflected responsibility by asking, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain thought not. God thought otherwise.
Thomas Aquinas describes “brotherly correction” as “an act of love.” He also says, “we owe [correction] in love to anyone we see doing wrong.” We owe it? Yes, says Aquinas, we’re obligated to confront a brother or sister we see doing wrong. Why? Concern for the person mandates it. The good—the character, health, prosperity—of our fellow man is in the balance.
So herein lies the real question: Am I willing to selflessly love my brother by initiating a difficult conversation with him out of concern for his wellbeing? If I answer no, I’m lax at best. At worst, I’m downright selfish.
But wait there’s more. Consider this injunction in the Mosaic Law: “Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt” (Lev. 19:17). Catch that? I see my _______ (insert classmate, housemate, teammate, professor) doing wrong and choose to look the other way. The outcome? He continues on a path that’s harmful—and I’m culpable.
Whaaaa? I didn’t do the wrong. True. But, in a Biblical worldview, I bear responsibility for those in my orbit (my neighbors). When my neighbor errs, I have an opportunity and obligation to go after him. If I shirk that obligation, I don’t really love him, at least not in practice (and practice always trumps sentimentality). Indeed, I’ve even wronged him and partaken in his guilt. Sobering? Yes. Difficult? Absolutely. Right? As much as I sometimes wish otherwise, indeed.
Here’s some good news: Every year 35-40% of King’s students initiate confrontations with other members of our community, based on our biannual Honor Survey. That means there are hundreds of people in our midst who are engaging others in difficult conversations. These confrontations, most of which go unseen by the community at large, are acts of selfless love and obligation. And the King’s community is better because of them.
As former Student Body President Sam Tran (Politics, Philosophy & Economics ‘14) recently wrote, “A life of honor necessarily involves confronting others.”
So who’s responsible? I am. You are. We all are.
David K. Leedy
Dean of Students