The Greek word philotimo (φιλότιμο) is a secret word that you cannot find a specific translation in any other languages of the world. Google translator is translating in English as ”the sense of honor” but the word itself actually have very complex meaning.
The term philotimo is uniquely Greek. It is a complex constellation of the values that is difficult to define in one word. It is a term packed with a great meanings and positive values. It is a perfect word that describe the good character and the way of life of a person. It is not an easy to translate it unless you bring together many different elements, such as duty, honor, courage, personal sacrifice, higher calling, taking pride of your work, passion, generosity, a duty to do the right things, ability to arise above pettiness and trivialities, it is a description of human kindness and empathy, humility and pride at the same time, love for your family and your country, it is a willing to help the less fortunate, etc.
All those values are in DNA of the Greek people but also of the entire humanity I want to believe. But these values have to be inspired.
Personally I am doing my best to live my life up to this word. Having philotimo doesn’t mean to just live for yourself but for something larger that yourself. All those values and ideals are incorporated in the ancient ideals of the classical Greek philosophy. But they are also attributes of the modern Greek people.
Philotimo is compound word made of two words, filos = friend and timi = honor. Therefore it could be simply translated as the love of honor, or respect for honor. But it is not an honor above you, but an honor and pride that are within you. We are all once in a while put on a test of whether we have philotimo inside of us or not and if yes how much we have it?
The honor, glory, the desire to be remembered motivated some of the most heroic acts in ancient Greek history. You can find the examples of it in the greatest battles of the history in general. In the story of the Termopiles battle, better known as the Leonidas and 300 of Sparta story that inspired many movies and books. The Spartans knew that they were going to die, they were only 300 fighting against 150,000 Persian soldiers. They knew that they are going to pay the heaviest price but they still did what they believed is right thing to do.
This is the way each individual in the ancient Greek society was contributing into the general well-being. It resulted with all kinds of ancillary developments. It was a very fertile ground for critical thinking as well.
Even when the Rome conquered Greece, they never actually conquered their culture, instead their culture conquered the Rome.
The value of philotimo is carried on from the ancient Greece through the Byzantine period to the modern Greek culture of today.
So the philotimo is the most complex term involving dignity, respect, decency, honesty, truthfulness, sincerity, and many other amazing values.
Whenever you mention the word in front of a Greek people you could immediately notice the softness in their eyes. Every time when the Greeks believe that someone declined from the good behavior that someone deviate from honorable and decent or dignifying way of behaving and living, they will ask that person openly: Do you have any philotimo within?
In Greek culture if you go out of your home and you behave badly, you are not only acting by yourself, you are taking the name of your father and your mother with you. In other words you are embarrassing your family and your entire community.
The great philosopher Thales said: ”Philotimo for Greek is like breathing. A Greek is not a Greek without it.” So, the good way to carry this on is to teach your kids to treat others as they would like to be treated. Remember that every transaction you do in life lives an image in someone’s head about who you are and about your values in life. Anyone should cherish philotimo within. Philotimo could make the world a better place.