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What Does Your Word Mean?

When a child looks at you with beseeching eyes and questions tentatively, “You promise?” And though you mentally review an already impossible schedule with unmitigated responsibilities, you answer “Absolutely” and know in your heart that wild horses wouldn’t keep you from that promise … your word has value and trust. Meaning and value attached to something as simple as … a word.

Once upon a time a man was only considered honorable on the strength of his word. A firm hand, an unwavering eye and a solid reputation was good enough to merge territories, seek peace, build empires and sell property.

Today, while we still have such things as “Verbal Contracts” and they are, in some circumstances, still considered lawfully binding, things have changed. On Barack Obama’s personal website “Verbal Contracts” are described as this; "When parties agree the terms of the contract by verbal statements, the binding terms of the contract are more difficult to ascertain. Usually a court will look to the history of the statements made by the parties and the performance of the parties to obtain assistance in determining what was actually agreed by the parties."

There is a lot of room there for interpretation … hedging. Honesty isn’t purely speaking the truth; it is the intent to speak truth and create trust in the minds of others. Statements can be strictly true but not honest if the intent behind the statement is to deceive. Our American culture is abundantly full of examples. President Bill Clinton and the word “is” comes to mind.

How many times have you spoken words of honesty with the intent to deceive? All of us, I’m sure. I find it most difficult when I know that a true statement could hurt someone’s feelings. Myself … I try the distraction approach which … rarely works. It takes courage to be strictly honest. It takes courage to accept blame where blame is due; it takes courage to speak with kindness and sensitivity but also with honesty when asked.

Do you know how many catch phrases we have to explain a lie? I’ve counted nine … I know you’ll come up with more. Here’s my list; fabrication, bold-faced lie, lying by omission, white lie, noble lie, emergency lie, perjury, bluffing and exaggeration.

Words are powerful expressions that can be used to create trust and elevate humanity or they can be used to break those bonds of human connection if not simply in words but by the intent behind those words.

The Bible has a simple yet profound interpretation of honesty that spans generations and cultures. It says simply; “Let your ‘Yes’ be yes and your ‘No’ be no.”

Ask yourself the question today, “How am I perceived? Am I considered a trust-worthy person?” If so … be committed to that virtue. If not ... think twice before uttering those explanations or reasons behind your actions. Your explanations can lead to the intent to deceive ... and that is dishonest. Be courageous … and lets help teach the next generation that our “absolutely” means exactly that.

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