Saturday, March 28, 2009

Staying the Course

Building Hiram - 03/28/09

Hello Fellow Travelers!

I wrote this as an article near three years ago; it is amazing how this theme of Integrity of one’s Word continues to play out in my life.

These creatures called “words” have remarkable power. I see the influence they have over others – including myself. My two little sons are prime examples of how these creatures shape and improve our lives. They’re also prime examples of how dishonoring our words can degrade us in a split second. Countless occasions occur where these creatures test our obligation to keep those values that we try to create for ourselves.

One such occasion played out for my family the day before Thanksgiving. On that day, my eldest son had not followed through on his word. He’d promised me that he would do something and he didn’t. As a result, I was tasked with confronting him on the issue. No, I didn’t enjoy having to do this but didn’t hold back because of the unpleasantness of the job. You see, I was on the hook too -- and in a big way. I had given him my word to help him hold himself accountable for what he had promised to do.

The time for being my word was before me too. In the moment, these little word creatures started pulling me in two directions: Do I let it slide or do I follow through on what I had promised. The choice was already made before I came to this crossroad. Even though this was so, those creatures were creating quite a cackle in the back seat of my mind to find some way to both honor my word and let him off.

I cringed. My mind chatter got louder. Could I find any loophole? Was it really that important? Maybe I could find a “get out of jail” card somewhere. What a noisy racket to deal with!

What was the consequence for my son you might ask? That was easy. The standard for infractions in our household is much like that used in grade school. We use simple colored cards – green, yellow, red and blue. Each color indicates the status of choice making during a 24 hour period. Color cards progress from green to yellow to red and finally to blue. Green means that all is well and good choices are occurring. Each one after green was a direct indicator that the choices were not good and were progressively compounding in nature.

In this case, my son got “yellow carded.” This meant both a warning had been given and an agreement to abide by a rule was summarily ignored. A bad choice on his part resulted in desert being left out from the next meal. (Yes, you guessed right -- desert is a big motivator in our family.)

That was what was at stake. It was behind the din that was so overwhelming in my mind’s ear. The next meal was our ‘Thanksgiving Celebration” meal. The desert that evening? A prized “apple-pie.” Not a light consequence for a young man whose mind was set on enjoying this sweet delight.

That consequence caused the creatures to gnaw and tug at my own commitment. What could I do? What should I do?

Once again, the choice was made long before the situation occurred yet my creative mind started to kick into overdrive when the next day, my son appeared before me. With a tear in his voice and a look that would have beat out the best of sorrow-filled puppies, my son approached me and asked if he could have desert after dinner. The creatures I constructed long before came into earshot as new creatures sprang into being to battle those who had claimed rights to govern this choice.

I thought for a moment that I could let it slide just this once but understood instantly that there would be a time in the future when he would choose not to do something because he knew there was a chance that he would not be held accountable for it. Not being acceptable, the legion of word creatures stirred an alternative thought: I could have some pie too and share mine with him because technically, he was not having his desert -- he was having mine. Gosh, these excuses were sure creative!

To compound the erosion of my resolve, I even imagined him sharing some of his pie with me the following day because I was so generous with sharing mine. (My heart leaped at this thought!) My mind raced through countless possibilities and I could feel the tension building up in my gut -- battle fatigue does this ever time.

Surprisingly, the creature in command busted through my mind chatter and the siege ceased quite suddenly. I heard it leaping from my mouth. I asked my son what should happen to me should I not keep my word to help him hold himself accountable to his word. He looked at me with that look of a young man trying to tame his own creature zoo. I could see in his eyes that he had the same challenge going on within that only a person with conscience could recognize.

He looked at me and understood -- I would have to break my word if I would not hold him accountable for breaking his. “Gosh Dad,” he said softly, “this accountability stuff sure gets messed up if you don’t honor your word.” I knew what he meant. We looked at each other. Our creatures settled down to a warm embracing hum.

He smiled and thanked me for following through on a tough job. We hugged and I said that I would save my pie for tomorrow so I could share it with him. He smiled again. I knew in that moment that I had laid a strong foundation for future trust -- my creatures agreed.


The steps people take to create more value in their lives are simple and are fundamental to the success each of them will have – with long-term consequences we may never be able to predict. To create this, there must be a commitment made that has every (not some) intention of being followed through on. Intention on this is everything but least you put this forth and find yourself in a basket sweating profusely because the intension was not followed through on in a supportive manner, you must put things into place that will both push and pull you toward your intention.

Fortunately life has a way of supporting our intentions in spite of what may seem to be unbearable odds so make sure you have that intention firmly entrenched in your heart and respected at all times. It’s often half the battle.

Both the intention of my wife and I is to make sure that our children have least two role models in their lives with reasonably consistent integrity. That all begins with us being our word without excuse.

There are things that can be done though to add value to one’s life. First off, one can commit one’s self to perfecting one’s ability to be true to one’s word without excuse; this is not a tall order and it has far reaching consequences. Secondly, one can accept that a perfecting process is just that, a process that brings one to maturity within the realm where one does one’s growing; it has nothing to do with getting rid of “flaws;” it has to do with bringing things to completion. Thirdly, one can accept the growing pains, which will occur, as lessons which one has opportunity to learn from; all lessons have rewards; don’t cheapen the rewards by skipping or depreciating the lessons. Too many lessons are made so easy that the outcome is not even worth the effort. Lastly, one can accept that this process is an “on-going” one, which brings to light lessons which were not learned yet and lessons that show the need for further skill development (perfecting); the process is ongoing and it only has to be engaged in to reap the benefits.

People reveal much by their actions and inactions. Should you want to know what people truly value, look at what they go out of their way to keep when they give their word. What word is not kept is of no value; what is kept has great value. It doesn’t get any simpler than this. It may take time to see this or it may take no time at all. Revelations are like this and they reveal much to all involved who depend on a given word.

What do you truly value? Be assured, your true value is revealed by your actions or the lack of them. Just look at your word-action history and learn. As you do, should you want to create greater value in your life, commit to those actions that have value for you and make sure you “be true to your word” so that your creatures truly live -- and live well.


Bro. Coach N

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