To complete the chapter on social health, consider the importance of your word. In most situations, you are a free agent, free to give or to withhold your word. You can promise, commit or agree to something, or you can say ‘No!’ to it. You’re free to make an oral or written contract, or you can turn it down.
When you discuss making an agreement or contract, you consider delivering something to another, and the other promises to deliver something to you. After discussion, both sides come to a verbal agreement; they commit it to writing; they read and modify it for greater clarity if necessary; after reading, further discussion and more modification, they agree on a final written version that accurately reflects their understanding. Then they both sign the contract. After that, they carry out their duties, as specified in the contract. When you sign an agreement or contract, you choose to no longer be a free agent. You bind yourself to another, and commit to honor the terms of your agreement.
Your word—giving, honoring and restoring it—is the single most important social issue of all time. You’ve promised another that s/he can depend on you to perform. Others depend on you delivering what you agreed on. They invest time and money on the expectation of your promised performance. Not being able to depend on keeping the agreements people make with one another make cooperative projects impossible. That is why giving and honoring your word is so important. By your word, you enter into a sacred trust with others.
Living and surviving in a hostile world depend on you honoring that trust. Successful thriving and teamwork depend on team members keeping the promises they make. In other words, honoring your word is vital both as warrior in terms of survival and as sage in terms of progress.
All actions and interactions have consequences. By your word, you agree to fulfill your promise to do your part of the combined effort toward common goals for mutual benefit.
Your word is the law you create and agree to live by, and you are never above that law. The power and importance of obeying your law by keeping your word can’t be overstated. Legally, it’s why breach of trust or contract is a big deal, and why courts of law have rules about breach of contract, breach of trust and unjust enrichment in place. It’s why they punish the ‘breacher’ and reward the ‘breachee’ with triple damages, and add the costs of legal defense, as well as lost time, sales and opportunities. Giving your word is not a trivial matter.
By keeping your agreements, you earn others’ trust, build a reputation for reliability, and create powerful relationships that enable you to carry out great projects. Once you give your word, it binds you even if you claim that you did so without due deliberations.