If you give your word to another, then stay true to it.
If you give your promise to someone, then hold tightly to it.
If you say you are going to do something, then follow through and do it.
If you say that you are reliable, then go ahead and prove it.
The Bands Dilemma
Warren was a really fun guy, everybody loved him. No matter where he was the “life of the party.” As I got to know more people in his circle of friends I noticed something interesting. People would laugh and joke around with Warren, but when he wasn’t present in the group, it was like they didn’t even know him.
I had gone to one of the larger coffee shops in the area to hear a local band. I sat at a table close to the band to get the full effect of the music. On break, I overheard the lead singer and the band leader talking.
“We really need someone to fill in for Frank when he’s out of town,” the leader said.
“I’ve talked to a couple of guys who play rhythm guitar, but they’re booked during those weeks. I’m not sure who else to ask. I even checked musicianspage.com, but I couldn’t find anyone,” the lead singer replied.
I just couldn’t help it. I had to speak up, “Hey, guys. Sorry, but I overheard your conversation. I know a guitarist who is really good. I know him personally and I know he would love to play.”
Both guys came and sat at my table, “Who would that be,” one of them asked.
“Warren. You know him. He’s usually here. He’s a really good guitarist and singer. I know he’d love to play,” I said.
“Warren?” They both laughed.
“What’s so funny? He’s always handing out cards and playing his music for people. I’ve seen him even give away free CDs,” I said.
“Warren’s a joke.”
“Why do you say that? He’s a really nice guy,” I said with an attitude of defending him.
“Then you must not know him very well.”
I wrinkled my brow in question, “I don’t understand.”
“Oh yes, he’s always passing out cards and CDs. His music is good and he’s a great guitar player, but he’s a little, no, a lot, weak in integrity. Where is he tonight? I haven’t seen him.”
I shrugged my shoulders, “I don’t know.”
“Right. He said he’d be here with his guitar to give it a try, but he’s not here. He’s always saying he’ll be here or do this or that, but he never shows up. We both learned a long time ago that his word isn’t worth two cents. It’s really sad because he’s really talented. We all learned to say, ‘We’ll see you there,” knowing he’ll never show. How do you know him?”
I hung my head, “Well, I guess I’m a slow learner. We were supposed to meet here, for a date, but he’s not here. I’ll wait a little longer.”
“Good luck. He pops in now and then. He’s always the “life of the party,” but he never keeps his word. I’m really sorry. This is a hard way to learn,” the bandleader said.
In days past, a man’s word and a handshake were his bond. No forms, no lawyers, no contracts were required. A man’s word was his contract. It was a known and followed fact that a man’s words matched his actions.
Like Horton said in Dr. Seuss, “I said what I meant and I meant what I said.”
In today’s culture, though, it seems to be different. We’ve all had experiences where someone says they’ll call, but they don’t. Someone says they’ll be at a meeting, but they don’t show. Someone says they’ll finish a project, but they don’t. They always have some excuse.
In our modern culture, we have not prioritized or put much value in keeping one’s word. We rationalize and justify it: Things happen – it’s no big deal. Yet, we don’t realize that it is a serious character issue to NOT keep your word.
Why People Do Not Keep Their Word
There are a variety of reasons why a person doesn’t keep their word. Some people say yes because they are afraid or haven’t learned how to use their “No.” Some are afraid the other person will get upset or angry with them if they say “No.” Let’s look at that for a second. If you say yes, but don’t follow through or even call how do you think they are going to feel? Do you think they might be even angrier? Could it affect your relationship?
Do you say yes, planning on doing it, but then have a change of heart and not follow through? Do you go into rebellion or resistance – I’m not going to be told what to do? Is it more important to feel like you’re in control than to keep your word?
You say you will do something, but circumstances change and it’s not as convenient as you thought. Perhaps, it will take more time or there is a monetary cost involved, so you decide it isn’t worth it. In the long run, what is it going to cost? Will it cost your friendship? What will it cost your reputation?
Do you say you will do something then go into rebellion and make excuses like, “I forgot,” “I haven’t had time,” “I’m afraid I won’t do it right.”
Wouldn’t it be better to either say “no” upfront or talk to the person later and say you can’t do it? Why leave a person hanging? Even if you come back later you may have already damaged your reputation and your credibility.
What Does God Think?
Numbers 23:19 “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”
When God says He will do something, He does it. When He gives a promise, He keeps it. We can count on God to keep His word every time. Not one jot or tittle of God’s Word will pass away before all of it is fulfilled (Matthew 5:18)
“In the Old Testament are laws saying that if you make a vow, you’d better keep it (Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:21-23). They tell us that it’s better not to say something than to say it and not do it. When you think about it, breaking your word is actually breaking the Ninth Commandment, which forbids bearing false witness (Exodus 20:16). When you give your word, failing to follow through makes you a LIAR.” – Joel Hilliker
Reasons To Keep Your Word
Integrity by definition is adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. Keeping my word means something to me. I don’t take it lightly.
Warren, through his life, had been lax, careless and negligent, in keeping his word. It began to bother him when a few weeks before he had told the band leader that he would show up to fill in for Frank. As he walked away he heard the bandleader and the lead singer laughing, “He won’t show. He never does, so who else can we get.”
It had been a week since Warren, promised to be at the coffee shop today. The minister’s sermon on Sunday and everything he heard online seemed to be pointing at his integrity.
He left early to be at the coffee shop on time. He noticed the traffic ahead was stopped, dead still. He veered off the interstate to a side road, but he knew he’d be late.
For the first time ever he was concerned about being late. He knew it was going to take time to reestablish his reputation.
Trust and Reliability
Do you trust people who don’t keep their word? Most of us don’t. It usually limits our desire to spend time with that person.
Warren had begun to notice that people didn’t want to spend time with him. When he’d suggest a meeting to “jam” or go out and hear music, he couldn’t get anyone to go with him.
Ginny, the woman he was supposed to meet tonight was the only one who’s agreed to go out with him in months. He finally realized that people didn’t trust him. He hoped Ginny was still at the coffee shop when he arrived.
As Warren was hustling to get to the coffee shop as soon as possible, he remembered the pastor’s sermon from last Sunday. He was saying how we lose respect when we aren’t trustworthy.
He really wanted to be respected as a musician and a man. The pastor termed respect as esteem and a sense of worth of a person. He also said that respect had to be earned by keeping your word.
Warren knew he had a lot of work to do and being late to the coffee shop wasn’t going to help.
The pastor also stated that we can’t feel a sense of self-worth when we let others down. He said that people who renege on their word do not value themselves enough to act with integrity. His final statement kept echoing in his mind, “Self-worth is the result of treating yourself and others with care and respect.” He had never even considered treating himself with care and respect.
If he didn’t treat himself with respect why should others treat him with respect?
The pastor told a story about a man in history who chose to die rather than lose his integrity and respect. He was a man of great personal power who was greatly loved by his family and others.
Warren really wanted to be that type of person. He wanted to be loved and respected by others. He also wanted to be recognized and valued as a musician.
Warren pulled into the parking lot. Often, if he was late he’d turn around and leave, but not tonight. He looked at his phone, 45 minutes late. He grabbed his guitar and rushed into the coffee shop.
He saw Ginny and the band members sitting at the table closest to the stage.
He took a deep breath and proceeded to the table
“Hi,” Warren said. “I’m so sorry I’m late. There was a really bad accident on the interstate. I had to take side roads, but so did everybody else. I’m ready to play.”
He reached over and kissed Ginny on the top of the head, “I’m so glad you’re still here.”