How to Be True to Your Word
White lies. Gossip. Unkept promises. They all cost you your personal integrity. Here’s how to earn it back.
Most of us consider ourselves good people. We recycle our cardboard, give to charity and generally try to do the right thing when we have the opportunity. Yet most good people also lie quite frequently.
How often, for example, have you lied in order to get out of a social request (“I’d love to come, but I’m busy that night”)?
How often have you lied, or asked your children or coworkers to lie on your behalf, when you get a phone call from someone you don’t want to talk to (“Tell them I’m not here!” or “I’d love to chat, but I’m late for a meeting”)?
How many couples regularly lie to each other for fear of hurting each other’s feelings or getting into a conflict (“I’m not mad; I’m just upset about work” or “Yeah, I’ll be home in a minute”)?
How often do you lie to yourself (“Tomorrow I’ll go to the gym” or “I’ll pay off that credit card next month”)?
We may think our lying is for a good reason: to keep from insulting or wounding someone we care about, to avoid our own discomfort, to smooth over conflict or to make someone happy. Really, though, we most often lie to make our own reality more comfortable.
We may feel that lying gives us more control of our lives: We get to avoid the pain of disappointing someone, of facing a difficult truth or of being the bearer of bad news.
We may insist that we lie because we’re trying “to be nice” to ourselves and others. But lying — as with other careless uses of language, such as making false promises, or gossiping, or trying to sound authoritative on topics we don’t fully understand — has a great many negative consequences.
When our words don’t match our actions, we lose a measure of healthy ownership and control over our lives. Careless language undermines our relationships, chips away at our sense of self and decreases our personal power.
Words and language patterns are powerful forces of creation. They articulate our reality. They put our dreams and goals out there for the whole world to see. They define our agreements. And they are the cornerstone of personal integrity.
Florence Scovel Shinn, a metaphysician of the 1920s, said, “There is always plenty on man’s pathway; but it can only be brought into manifestation through desire, faith or the spoken word.”
Every time we speak, we create a road of some sort. The quality of that road, and how far it goes, will be directly related to how well we maintain our integrity with our words and language choices.