Social Ease And Connection, Part 16: Honor
Breaking your word when more interesting, profitable or shinier possibilities come along saddles you personally, relationally and financially.
Breaking your word and trust is the cardinal social sin. Why do people do it? Why does anyone break an agreement after making it? The answer is that it is easier to make an agreement than to honor it, especially in moments of challenge, temptation or personal discontent. These lead to deliberate thinking focused on finding ways to skirt your word in order to get more for your self. This can lead to exploiting, taking unfair advantage or cheating your partner. There are respectful ways of ending or changing contracts, none of which involve breach, exploitation, cheating, bullying or lying.
In a world where many people value money more than life, it’s most often greed—the love of money—that leads to breach of contract. Check in with yourself. See if this is true for you. I’m willing to be wrong. In fact, I’d love to be wrong. Observe how it works within your mind and in relation with your heart—your better angels, as some people say. This is important homework for each of us to do.
Breach of agreement puts everything and everyone in jeopardy. By going back on your word, you create mistrust that damages relationships. You foster disappointment, anger, and grief. You create suspicion, enmity, conflict and even war. You’ve probably heard the common laments about broken promises: ‘But you gave your word!!’ ‘You promised, but you broke your promise!!’ ‘We had a contract, but you went back on it!!’ ‘We made an agreement, but then you lied to me!!’ ‘I can’t trust you anymore.’ Breach the biggest bad social deal.
Recall events in your life, both from your side and from that of others, where breach of agreement or contract led to serious bad feeling-based problems. Heartfelt honesty, or a return to honoring an existing contract on the part of the one who breached it avoids or repairs the bad feelings and the trust problems that stem from it.
What happens when you give your word with best intentions and a commitment to keep it and follow through, but events beyond your control conspire to make it impossible to keep your word? That occasionally happens. How do you deal with it? The answer is not obvious only because many people are not principled in their social interactions. They may blow off their broken promise as if it meant nothing, hoping to ‘get away with it’. They deny the consequences of breaking their agreement on those they made it to, and pretend or rationalize that it’s okay. It’s NOT okay.
When you know that you will not keep a promise you made, let the other know as soon as you know. Ask them to tell you how you can make it right. What damage to them has your breach caused? How do you repair that damage? How can you rebuild the broken trust? It will cost you something in time, energy, humble pie, or money. This can often re-establish the trust you broke, and you might even be able to strengthen the relationship and the trust by taking it on.
When you DO have to break a promise, don’t be dismissive about it. Honor the person. Honor the trust between you. Honor the relationship. Honor the agreement. Appreciate and acknowledge that your breach incurred a cost on those to whom you made the promise, and take responsibility to make good on the agreement you broke. Return to delivering on promises after you break them. It feels right, and you grow when you talk straight and walk straight. When you fail or refuse to restore broken agreements, you damage yourself as a human being.
Breaking your word for personal gain is cowardly and heartless. You shrink as a person because you lose your connection to your wholeness. You sacrifice your life energy and freedom. You choose to value something else more than your life and your agreement, as well as your partner. Imagine! You sell out your life, the only real treasure here, for money.
Our word, which is both promise and agreement, is the only thread that connects us with others. We achieve lofty, noble, heartfelt or glorious goals together only as long as that thread remains unbroken. It breaks only when we choose to break it. Feeling discontent leads to negative thoughts, which power disloyal actions.
Our word with others is vitally important whenever we have crises or possibilities that are bigger than what we can handle alone, and that need more than one hand on deck. When your word’s based on full presence in all of your being, you and your trust-based team can accomplish any goal to which you set your mind. Your efforts can then benefit and lighten the lives of all those you touch.