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Keeping My Word - What's the Diff?

Updated on March 25, 2013

Does It Really Matter Whether I Keep My Word?

A habitually trusting person, recent instances of shock and dismay at others' flexibility on an imaginary Word-Keepfulness Scale leaves me confused.

This scale is the sort of stick-figure timeline I might draw to indicate an individual's maintenance or variance from their word in some instance - not that I've ever done that, but by way of example.

This photograph of some of my tiles, loosely arranged in a pattern that makes sense, illustrates my case.

Set together, with appropriate spacing for future grouting, the picture makes sense to me, and to the viewer as well. We could imagine it set into a countertop or on a wall. It makes sense that companion tile sets look the same or similar. If we order a box of these tiles we would expect to receive just what we see here, or multiple sets.

If we removed the top ten sets of boxed tiles, only to discover that the eleventh set was a bright yellow smiley face, we might feel that we got took, or that some mistake was made. It would feel disconcerting.

The pattern is broken. We trusted that when we ordered a boxful they would all be the same. Similarly, when I keep my word (set the tiles in order) it makes sense to you, because you can count on my words.

As I set off on this journey to explore word-keeping, my intention was to learn how to deal with others' foibles, but it has now become to better understand my own variations on word-keeping.

Please come along on my journey to understand why I think I do or don't excel at keeping my word.

photo credit

Who Is Most Harmed by the Broken Word?

Who suffers more, the one who breaks a promise, or the person who believes the broken promise?

The person who believes the promise that got broken is the big loser.

The person who believes the promise that got broken is the big loser.

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  • anonymous 3 years ago

    This is dependent on several factors, I'd have to think, but a general rule is that the person who believes the promise is hurt more.

  • OrganicMom247 4 years ago

    I say both to some degree but the most hurt is the person who believed the broken promise.

It is the one who says they will do or keep something, and doesn't, who suffers the most.

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About That Upturned Red Corner Tile

Imagine that the bottom left red tile is turned upside down, so there's a snag in my cognition. I don't see what I expected to see, when I ordered the tiles. The pattern of dependability is broken.

Similarly, imagine that the simple task of kissing my babe bye bye as I picked up my car keys, on the way to our appointment, suddenly my tot's spit-up splattered all over my dress.

Boom! I need to change. The replacement dress I pop on has a broken zipper, so I turn to a flashy top that always feels fun to wear.

Now, the top's on and looks happy, but the pants that go with it are in the laundry! Oh no, now I need to select a whole new outfit. Quick, I grab the first whole combination I see, and notice that the earrings are totally out of place - purple and white striples - with the green and yellow posies that print my blouse.

Quick, off with those earrings, and flash..........drop one of the dangly purple things onto the carpet at the side of the dresser. HaH! Hubby, who's home sick but got out of bed for a glass of water, can't resist a little nudge when I'm down on the floor, and the earring takes flight into the darker deeper recess under the dresser.

image credit: Commons photo

We Agreed on a Set Time

Suddenly I remember you, and I picture you there on the sidewalk, where you alighted from the bus you raced to catch, after leaving work early to meet me! Ughhh!l

Now, it either becomes hilarious, or my ancient Scary Bunny squeezes my lungs and my need to keep my Word morphs into WORDS that'll set my hubby back in healing for a day or two. But I-want-to-keep-my-Word!

As I matured and long ago, I intuitively assigned a trust quotient to individuals and groups with interests consequent with my own beliefs. Still sensitive to the other person's word, my appraisals were weighted on their behalf.

image credit: Commons photo

I'm more likely to trust people than to be suspicious of them. How about you? Are you skeptical about trusting people with whom you have much in common?

On What Do You Base Your Trust Of Other People

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      anonymous 3 years ago

      Generally, I am trusting. I try to give people an opportunity to before distrusting them, even those with a reputation of nefariousness. I have been burned with this, but I believe it is worth it. Until proven otherwise, people deserve a chance.

    Ooooops - Back to the Upside Down Tile

    I made the tiles, arranged them, set up and took the photo, and I wanted to emphasize the deep grooves I cut into the back (deep grooves give the mastic a place to mass, so as to increase adhesive strength, keeping the tiles on the wall).

    I understand the new arrangement. But let's say that you have never seen a handmade tile's back, and you think the grooved lines are really the face of the bottom left piece.

    It may make you feel a sense of uneasiness, of not understanding. You may wonder: why did the maker use such an ugly tile with those beautiful shiny red tiles; what am I missing; why am I wasting time looking at this mismatched set of tiles?

    photo credit

    Two Shades of Uneasiness

    My friend experiences my tardiness through a different lens. She made special arrangements to meet me on my clock, yet she's still standing outside when her boss steps out for coffee. Why the rush, they both wonder, but she may been in her own stew of discontent.

    Know that if you are the friend on the sidewalk, waiting for me, I've already figuratively drunk a couple glasses of stomach acid, emphathyzing with your frustration, so I won't need to eat much anyway. I'll need to spend the first twenty minutes regaling you with the story of my antics.

    Then your indisposition will become evident to me, and I'll want to buy you a piece of cake and frost it myself, I'll feel so bad about inconveniencing you, about chipping away at your level of trust of me.

    image credit: Commons photo

    So, this too can go two ways, one of accepting interruptions without judgment or one of becoming an interruption myself.

    Origins of My Word Keeping Notions

    I began this article by sharing how I keep extending my trust to those whose scale of Word-Keeping remains a mystery, in a new-mown-hay naivete sort of way.

    Within my physical abilities I believe I keep my word, I think, but maybe others find my old-fashioned land-line style of communication trying.

    If I get lost or traffic's heavy they are left unknowing until I arrive on the scene, both that I'm late and what the obstacles are. I know I left in plenty of time to arrive at the appointment, but they know I am not there, and they don't know why.

    It seems there are two basic ways of viewing the concept of giving one's word on matters: #1 trust them; #2 distrust them. Tending to err on the side of trusting tends to fertilize the garden of friendship discontent.

    But it's not that simple, really, to decide what to do about it, so as a marker on my journey I've listed categories on which I based my childhood level of trust for keeping their word. I long ago intuitively assigned a trust quotient, as a matter of expedience. Within a framework, these categories segmented out of my small world of family and school, and I assigned to each one the same level of trust.

    This was not so much based on experience, as on the strength of my mother's exhortations to "always tell the truth." I guess I figured that if my mom, and my grandparents who lived nearby, were so firm about this maxim, then every child must have had the same training, hence people were believable.

    Religion did not play a big part in my conscience formation. The Golden Rule reigned supreme, and that meant to tell the truth and keep my word.

    image credit: my album

    Why I Think I Keep My Word

    I began this article by sharing how I keep extending my trust to those whose scale of Word-Keeping remains a mystery, in a new-mown-hay naivete sort of way. Within my physical abilities I believe I keep my word, I think, but maybe others disagree.

    They could find my old-fashioned land-line style of communication trying, because if I get lost or traffic's heavy they are left unknowing until I arrive. I know I left with adequate time to arrive on time, but all they know is that I am not there.

    It seems there are two basic ways of viewing the concept of giving one's word on matters:

    #1 trust them

    #2 distrust them

    For me, it means tending to err on the side of trusting, both myself and others, can fertilize the garden of friendship and respect, or incur discontent.

    But it's not that simple, really, to decide what to do about it, so as a marker on this journey I've listed my foundational promptings for me to keep my word.

    This was not so much based on experience, as on the strength of my mother's exhortations to "always tell the truth." I guess I figured that if my parents (and my grandparents who lived nearby) were so firm about this maxim, then every child must have had the same training, hence people were believable.

    Family, school and town expectations reinforced my family's position on keeping one's word. Religion did not play a big part in my conscience formation. The Golden Rule reigned supreme, and that meant to tell the truth and keep my word because I wanted others to do the same. Keeping our word was equated with truth telling, and our elementary schools played a formative part in training me to keep my word.

    As I matured and long ago, I intuitively assigned a trust quotient to individuals and groups with interests consequent with my own beliefs. Still sensitive to the other person's word, my appraisals were weighted on their behalf.

    photo credit: Matthew Trump

    Do you think I'm extreme in my need to keep my word, or do you think it's as important as I do? Please give me an example of when it's OK to set your word aside and act in a way contrary to what you said you would do.

    How Important Is It To You To Keep Your Word?

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        anonymous 3 years ago

        In a situation where the facts have changed such that it is harmful to the person to whom you have made the promise to keep that promise, you can alter your position. You must, however, communicate that you the person and the reason for the need to change.

        Example: you agree to sell your car to someone, but something happens to that car such that it is no longer in the same condition as it was when you agreed to sell it.

      Current Measures for Keeping My Word

      My Current Backbone for Keeping My Word

      Family

      Religious

      Personal Friendship

      Organizational

      College

      School

      Social Network

      Neighborhood

      Being realistic, I have to admit that I very much take my given word seriously. It is who I am, my sense of integrity prods me to respect the honor of keeping my word. If I fail to hold myself accountable I've several levels of relationship to do it for me.

      The only problem I see is that I turn the mirror of my expectations for myself - onto others who give me their word - and I interpret the reflection as strictly for them, as for myself.

      Intending to be gracious, I extend my trust in their words; I like to think that it is just too exhausting to halt the flow of conversation, as I mentally stumble over remembered pits in the pavement of our mutual intersections.

      This all too often unlocks the latch to the gate guarding the junkyard, where all past failed personal transactions lie in disrepair. That means that I ignore the clues, in what amounts to wishful thinking, and put my eggs in baskets of broken grass.

      You see, once again I bring the topic around to my discomfort when another person breaks their word, deflecting my attention from my goal of assessing my need for them to polish up their responsibilities, and follow through.

      Sure, I can justify my position by my religion's teachings, and by my childhood religion's teachings, and by my mom's and my school's and my neighborhood's expectations, but this journey indicates another direction.

      Now, perhaps I ought to draw out that little scale in reference to myself, and what it means to me to keep my word. If I am clear about the basis for my valuation of my personal integrity, maybe it will come easier to place a bigger fence around my friends and associates, so they can graze in their own pastures of word-keeping, untethered by my needs for their perfection. Then I need to jump inside that roomy pasture, too.

      image credit: Commons

      Make a Mosaic With the Red Tiles

      Returning to my red tile metaphor, if I am sincere about saying what I mean, and meaning what I say, then I will continue doing so, regardless of influences.

      Remembering that neither are you responsible for keeping my word, nor am I responsible for keeping your word, and letting you decide for yourself is a choice I must make.

      So I am determined to limber up my flexibility and let others' words land in their own basket or on the field.

      I can make a mosaic, even if it only means turning over a tile so I show the other side.

      image credit:David Shankbone

      Being a Witness to My Good Faith

      My yardstick for need to keep my word moved from me, as a child, to family, upon marriage.

      My focus changed to husband, to children (yes, children first), then to education and career, back to suddenly disabled adult child, to career, to health, but all within the framework of my religious beliefs.

      All religions exhort believers to the virtues of truth telling, of keeping one's work, to developing the characteristics of integrity.

      This is the Holy Text's proclamation about keeping one's word, that I strive to follow in my daily life:

      S16:91 And be true to your bond with God whenever you bind yourselves by a pledge (110), and do not break (your) oaths after having (freely) confirmed them(111) and having called upon God to be witness to your good faith: (12) behold, God knows all that you do. al Qur'an 16:91

      image credit: my handbuilt tile

      Does It Matter To You?

      Do you take care to mean what you say?

      Naw, I use my language to get my way.

      Naw, I use my language to get my way.

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      Yes, I'm very careful to say what I mean.

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      • anonymous 3 years ago

        Yes, though I find people often want to put different meanings into what I say. I don't try to hide anything.

      • OrganicMom247 4 years ago

        Yes always!

      Meaning What You Really Say, Gently

      Speak Strong: Say what you MEAN. MEAN what you say. Don't be MEAN when you say it.
      Speak Strong: Say what you MEAN. MEAN what you say. Don't be MEAN when you say it.

      For anyone who struggles in keeping their word, learn easily.

       

      Coach Your Kids to Keep Their Word

      Keep Your Word
      Keep Your Word

      Let the kids work through these projects to learn their own answers.

       

      Did you or do you place a very high emphasis on teaching your children the value of keeping their word? If so, or if not, why did you make that choice?

      How Do You or Did You Teach Your Kids To Keep Their Word?

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        A Reminder of How You Value the Truth

        How Do You Feel About Keeping My Word?

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            OrganicMom247 4 years ago

            Great lens! Keeping ones word speaks a lot about a person. In some instances it shows how trustworthy one is. Thumbs up!

          • rob-hemphill profile image

            Rob Hemphill 4 years ago from Ireland

            Keeping your word is like making a promise, and shouldn't be broken. I think it all comes down to trust.

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