1.honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions:

a person of honor.

 It is a funny word that seems misused, misunderstood and misplaced in this day and age. The definition is simple but the usage is much more complex. Honor is something that is demonstrated, lived and earned. We cannot talk our way into honor nor can it be self-proclaimed. Once lost, honor is not easily regained. The word itself is meaningless but the idea it represents is priceless. Being honorable can be the toughest, most rewarding and most liberating thing we ever do but being honorable is like anything else – it is easier the more often you do it!

What does this have to do with us or with orthodontics?


Doing what you say you will do is the first and last rule when it comes to being honorable. Even when we don’t want to. Even when it has negative consequences for us! The cost of losing one’s honor is far more than anything as trivial as money. Still want examples of scenarios that test our honor? Ok, here we go.

A patient comes in with a space or rotation soon after the braces come off and it’s obvious that they have held up their end of the bargain.

We purchase a practice and discover that some patients have credits on their accounts due to insurance payment.

A patient comes in and still has Es and Cs but mom is eager to start now.

A patient wants you to waive their insurance co-pay or treat for “insurance only”.

A patient (or several) pay in full in cash and you are faced with a large pile of greenbacks that should go into the bank account.

A vendor sends you a “rebate” check that should be deposited in the company account.

We receive overpayment from an insurance company or a patient.

We receive payment from the state for a Medicaid patient but the patient disappears or we stop treatment early.

We promise staff members a bonus or reward but realized you shouldn’t have promised that much or that you are cash tight when it comes time to pay up.

We take the braces off and mom is not happy when she gets a look at the teeth with the braces off.

Telling a mom what treatment we are rendering today on her child and then having her say, “but doctor, last time that’s not what you said we would do today”…

We promise our kids we will go to the park after work but had a tough day.

We promise our spouse that we will have a date night once a week but we have really important stuff that needs doing.

No one is perfect but striving to be honorable is like practicing orthodontics. With effort and focus we should get better and better over time and achieve a positive outcome more and more often.

I’ll readily admit that in my teens and twenties I did not have a firm grasp on the truth, nor did I appreciate the vast implications of such moral flexibility. As I got into real world practice and was called down by more than one mom for trying to glaze over discrepancies between what I said and what I did, it became clear to me that I was not smart enough to do anything but tell the truth.

Every time.

In every situation.

No matter what.

I used my lack of memory skills (and my desire to improve and become a decent human being) to constantly motivate myself to be honorable above all else. More than a decade later, being honorable is EASY and I don’t think twice about telling the truth no matter how large the apparent contra-indications loom! Find your own motivation. Work on being honorable every hour of every day in small things as well as big. Being an honorable person is reward enough but the rewards don’t stop there.

One thought on “Honor

  1. Thank you of this important reminder. When we’re in a busy day, making quick decisions, sometimes tired (when most mistakes tend to be made) it’s especially important to remember to “do the right thing”. Your reputation and respect are hard to gain, so easy to lose. I plan on reading this post post biannually. Every ortho resident should read it upon graduation. Thanks again.

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