Being Noble Is Not Important, But It’s Important To Me

Ryan Fan
Photo by Jack Sloop on Unsplash

I was once hanging out with a couple of my friends and we were having a discussion when somehow this question popped up:

“How important is it to be noble, anyways?”

There was a pause in the conversation as we considered the question. It was something that I’d wondered for a long time, too. Eventually one of my friends, who I’ve come to really respect and take after, said this:

“I don’t know, but it’s really important to me.”

I’ve thought on those words a lot over the past year, and in retrospect, that was the perfect response and the perfect answer. In the response that “it’s really important to me,” it meant that there was no elevation or comparison. He had his values, but did not impart or impose them on everyone else at the table. Being noble was his value, plain and simple, that he took to heart.

In the past year, so have I as well. I don’t, to the best of my knowledge, impart my values and beliefs on others. I’m a big believer of allowing people to find the path of whatever works best for them, personally, to find their way and take personal ownership of that path. But trying to be noble is something that has worked for me. If a friend asks me to do something for them and I give them my word, I flat out can’t reckon or live with myself if I don’t follow through. As such, I have used the mantra “keep your word” sparingly as a way to ensure I do something or keep a promise that was important to me.

The labels of “honorable” and “noble” tend to have negative connotations in today’s society — and I think a lot of people who do label themselves as such have goals of self-ascendancy above their peers, to some extent. If being noble is a for recognition or credit, then we are doing it for the wrong reasons.

In today’s day and age, however, there’s this question as well — what does being noble actually mean? The straight up answer I can give is I don’t know. I can only tell you what I think when I think the word.

It can be summed up in Galatians 5:13–14: “”For you are called to freedom, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

I’ve written about this before, but the main reason I converted to Christianity was that some of the people I’m close with who identify as Christian have a certain way of treating others that I respect profoundly. It is treating those people with unconditional support and kindness, but giving them space and freedom to find their own path. They never thought they were better than me, and I never got the sense that they thought they were better than me. They treated myself and others with the utmost humility and respect, the likes of which I didn’t know existed.

That is what it means, to me to be noble. That is what I strive to be closer to, each and every day of my life. To be noble means to show, not tell, to be a leader that doesn’t tell people what to do or what they should be, but show people the way to be what they want to be. To be noble is to walk forward vulnerable and with flaws, with full acceptance of yourself, instead of trying to put on the tough act and hide that away. Because I’ve learned that the hardest thing you can do in life, that you can ever do, is invite people into your pain and suffering and see you as you truly are at what you believe is your worst — because hiding is the societal norm and default.

To be noble, again, is to not seek recognition or credit for your acts of good and service, even for the little things. These acts, such as sacrificing an hour or two of sleep to talk to a friend or family member in need, or sitting in silence with someone suffering alone, are not done for the right reasons if you later tell the world the next day about all the good you did so they can see how good of a person you are. The only recognition you truly need is from yourself, or from God or some other power you believe in. In the final analysis, that’s what it’s all about.

So the question you’re probably wondering at this point, if you’ve gotten to this far in the article, is if I believe I’m noble. I do not. I want to be and I’ve certainly gotten better at it as I’ve moved forward in life. Certain people who have seen snapshots of me would say yes definitively, while others who have seen different snapshots would say absolutely not. But what matters isn’t that being noble is important to everyone — what matters is that it’s important to me.

Originally published at on June 25, 2018.

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Believer, Baltimore City special ed teacher, and 2:40 marathon runner. Diehard fan of "The Wire," God's gift to the Earth. Support me:

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