In his best-selling book, The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz’s first agreement is “Be impeccable with your Word.” Ruiz explains that this agreement means to speak with integrity, saying only what you mean. The Word should not be used to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Your Word should be used to elevate truth and love.
Another best-selling author named God wrote something similar many years ago. He said, “Thou shalt not lie (or bear false witness).”
Let’s be honest: we all lie. Some lies are whoppers, some are white; some are designed to avoid trouble, others are told to elevate ourselves in the eyes of others. Regardless of the size or intention behind a falsehood, lies destroy trust.
For 6 months, I’ve gotten Reader’s Digest in the mail with this note attached. Stop! Don’t let this be your last issue. The 24-month subscription I paid for keeps coming, now going on its 30th month. I’ve become conditioned to ignore the impending cancellation notice, because it’s nothing more than a threat. Call it a lie, call it marketing, call it a clerical error. Whatever you call it, the repetition of the Stop! notice is something that I do not trust.
Not all lies are intentional. Many start off as truths, things we intend to do, but our lack of persistence and follow through converts them into words that reduce trust. In that way, parents lie all of the time. You can’t leave your room until it’s clean. But then something comes up, and the child is granted amnesty. No computer for a week! But there’s the school project that requires a computer to complete. Before long, the homework is done, and the child again is using the computer for Facebook, email, chatting, etc.
At work, liars are those who commit to a job or assignment and then drop the ball. Perhaps they had great intentions when they promised to get the job done. But how many times can you clean up after someone’s good intentions while maintaining trust in that person’s words? Not long.
If you want to be trusted, keep your word. If you say you’ll do something, do it. If you say you won’t do something, be clear with that as well. Otherwise, you’ll end up where all liars go…Washington, D.C.