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Home / Articles / Columnists / Life 101 /  Keeping Your Word
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Thursday, October 4,2012

Keeping Your Word

By Cary Bayer  
Recently, I was giving my “Conscious Communication” class, and afterwards one of the students came up to me and wanted to talk further about what I called integrity—in other words, doing what you say you will do, keeping your word, and honoring your commitments. She was a very right-brained healer, who prided herself on her spiritual development, and felt that what I was talking about was being, in her words, “very anal.” I smiled. “Talk like that,” she said, “reminds me of the way football coaches and quarterbacks talk.” I smiled and told her that guys who scramble free from the punishing blows of 300-pound linemen might not be the kind of guys she’d expect to see at a Reiki circle, but if she was going into battle, a quarterback is the kind of guy she could count on to have her back. “Football players might not seem spiritual in the way that you view spirituality,” I told her, but they are usually the kind of people who you could count on—and that’s very spiritual in its own right.


Long before the proliferation of written contracts, lawyers and agents, men shook hands with each other on what they said they would do. That sealed the deal the way a notary public sometimes has to do today in our highly litigious society. When I ran my own communications company doing public relations and marketing, from 1984 through 2001, I was used to client companies that did everything by written contract. And I gave them what they wanted.

One day, I gained an Australian client and was quite surprised by their refreshing approach: to simply shake hands on our agreement. They did business the old-fashioned way: on a shake of hands, where each side would do what it said it would do. In other words, each of us would live by his word.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I see people give their word, only to change it when their mood changes, and they don’t feel like honoring their word anymore. What, after all, does giving your word mean if the following day, your mood changes and you no longer feel like doing what you said you would? Unfortunately, that’s how too many people today interpret the giving of their word.

Commitment, as defined by Encarta World English Dictionary, is “a planned arrangement or activity that cannot be avoided.” People commit to all kinds of arrangements or activities that they avoid whenever they no longer feel like committing. Calling this kind of haphazard behavior a commitment is an insult to those who honor their word and keep their commitments.

In the post-modern age, one’s word often means very little, if nothing at all. Promises, like records, seem nowadays, to be made to be broken. But in earlier times, as recently as the late 19th century–as we see in movie westerns–a man’s word was his bond.

Much of this sense of integrity derives from the Bible. As we read in Numbers 30:2, for example, “When a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.”

You don’t have to wear sandals or hike through the desert with a walking stick like the people of the Old Testament did, nor do you have to wear cowboy boots like the gunslingers of the Wild West, to give your word and keep it, no matter what. If you speak this way and live this way, people will trust what you say, and will come to know that you are someone who is reliable, and who honors his word. They will want to be in relationships with you, both personally and professionally. That’s because you will be one of a small minority of people who truly can be counted on.


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