Aidos is usually translated "shame," but it covers a whole range of emotions, from simple respect to a deep-seated fear of disgrace. In every case, however, it is an emotion which is created by the anticipation of "what people will think" and is based on a sense of one's obligations to family or society. Hector repeatedly says he feels aidos toward the Trojan men and women, whose chief defender he is; and Achilles' friends accuse him of a lack of aidos when he refused to fight in their behalf.
Aidos, as a quality, is that feeling of reverence or shame which restrains men from wrong
I was on my way to drop off some computer parts one day while I was at work. As I pulled of the highway I saw a man at the bottom of a exit ramp. It was a homeless man, spare changing. I stopped and gave him some change, for whatever reason, and continued on my way. It was drizzling and I could not get that man out of my mind. I decided that I would do something for him if I could
After I dropped the computers off I stopped and got two coffees and a hot sandwich. When I got to the onramp I rolled down my window and told the gut that the sandwich and coffee were for him. He thanked me profusely and I drove off.
Now what, you may ask, does that have to do with Aidos.
Well, before this man had even left my rearview mirror I felt bad. I didn't know why I had done what I did. I did not know whether I had done it for me or for him. I felt that I might have been nice to this man for the wrong reasons (ie. to make myself feel better). The reason I felt all of this is simple. I did not look him in the eye when I handed him the coffee and sandwich.
I felt bad and I did not know why. I sat and thought about this in the quiet times. I lived at my computer and read about anarchism and social justice and the latest school shooting and I wondered how it all made sense.
One day I told this story to some friends while we were drinking. They told me I was making to much of it, that I helped this man and that negated any negative aspect of the experience. We sat and argued social theory and who could do the most sit-ups. Time passed and one friend bursts onto the porch, Edith Hamilton's Mythology in hand.
"I knew that story reminded me of something."
He showed me the heading for Aidos. The personification of an emotion, compassion (but not quite). The feeling that a rich man should get when he sees a poor man. Not shame, but the feeling that the difference between them should not exist.
And then I knew. The feeling I had been carrying around was Aidos, or rather Nemesis towards myself for not treating this man I was giving a coffee to like a Man. By not looking him in his eye I showed him pity, not aidos.