The Real Meaning of Noblesse Oblige

There is a certain amount of truth here in these words.

Mary Achor's Weblog

My favorite English teacher, a tough, old-fashioned broad named Miss Edna Stewart, spent an entire high school class period discussing the meaning and obligation of noblesse oblige. It was the motto of the National Honor Society, so she was trying to get the ethics of it through our thick skulls. It is the class period I have never forgotten.

Noblesse oblige literally translates to “nobility obligates.” It implies that with wealth, power and prestige come social responsibilities; it is a moral obligation to act with honor, kindliness and generosity.

The term is often used sarcastically, implying that one is a hypocrite by doing a service because one has to, or by being condescending while doing it. My mother used to refer to that kind of attitude as being a “Lady Bountiful,” doing good deeds because you’re special, to make yourself feel better and make others feel bad at…

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