Let’s continue the discussion we began last week, when I said, “ . . . to make keeping your word a moral issue saps it of much of its power and all of its joy.”
Look and see if you feel righteous when you keep your word, or especially when other people don’t. Do you get angry when people don’t? Disappointed? If so, then it’s most likely a moral issue. I did the right thing, or they were wrong. It’s been drilled in us since we were children; good people keep their word; people who don’t are bad, but such a stance is quicksand. If you are good, someone must be bad. The word good is meaningless without bad. Suppose that:
“There ain’t no sin and there ain’t no virtue. There’s just stuff people do.” John Steinbeck
And then consider this: When someone says to you, “I’ll do it,” and you accept his word, then you are a party to it; you have assumed a certain responsibility in the matter. Is this true? Not among ordinary people in the world. It’s true only for the truly powerful. The question is: “What is your intention? To be good? Or to be powerful?” (powerful: producing, or capable of producing, an intended result) This is the real value in keeping your word.
Generally, when we think of powerful people, we think of the rich, the famous, and and those in power; and yes, some of those people are powerful. But ask yourself: If the people in high places are so powerful, why does there appear to be so much effort involved in their lives? The people I know who are truly powerful don’t spend their lives in an effort to amass great wealth, fame, or importance. They seem to have a sufficiency of whatever they need, whenever they need it. When they say something, it happens. They don’t have to hammer other people; the people around them get to win too. How do they do this? By not setting other people up to fail. But, more important, powerful people don’t set themselves up by expecting—or worse, depending upon—unreliable people to keep their word.
Keeping your word is like using a muscle; it gets stronger and stronger with use. The outcome of this is that your word has power—what you say, happens. The place to start is right here, and the time to start is right now.