We are our words.
They define us, they show what we stand for, believe in and represent to the world. Often times they’re the only reference people have to decipher our ethics and outlook on life. Like an artist on a canvas -the words and ultimate actions we choose set the tone and define our unique and individual character, integrity and attitudes. They paint a permanent and indelible picture of who we are.
Make those words count. Make them honorable, factual and thoughtful.
They have an impact far beyond the moment that can stay with you forever. Especially in this digital age when everything can be found at anytime, by anyone.
They can lift you up to new heights or drop you down to the lowest depths.
They can enhance, enrage, encourage, detract, destroy and wound.
In many ways they are all you leave behind. The words you spoke and the actions that followed them.
Make then count.
How can we trust anyone who lies, misrepresents, and misleads?
Like the famous quote says- “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”
Trust is earned, not given away. Only then can we truly believe in that person’s veracity and have a real, lasting and close relationship. Would you want a confidant you couldn’t trust with your most intimate thoughts? Whose allegiance depended solely on their needs which could change direction in minutes, if it suited them? Who didn’t follow through on what they say they’ll do if it became inconvenient?
What catastrophe could occur when they decide their promise is no longer a priority? Would your child be stranded at school when somebody offered to pick them up, but didn’t show? Could a flat tire have caused an accident because it wasn’t repaired as you were told? After completing work, might the check you expected never come through? Would you have to listen to the justifications they’ll spew to excuse an action or defend a lie?
How long would that person last as a friend, spouse, boss, work mate? The reality? Not long!
It’s something we instill in our children and denounce in no uncertain terms when they succumb.
Lying is never tolerated.
Looking into someone’s eyes and shaking hands was all the commitment you needed in my Father’s time. The reams of paper we use today to fill contracts, was unnecessary then. If your word wasn’t your bond you’d never do business again. Can you imagine? A world where a promise was something you could take to the bank. One’s reputation was all you could really call your own. And losing that was devastating.
When my daughter was twelve, I read a newspaper article explaining something called “My Space,” the precursor to Facebook. It was a horrifying warning to parents- beware, your children could be on it without your knowledge, threatening their security. I was shocked to learn it was a compilation of personal pages revealing, in too many cases, vast amounts of information and photographs. The very thing we thought we’d taught our kids so effectively not to participant in for their safety. Just like talking to strangers in real life, it was inconceivable that any child, after years of explaining the dangers, would not only set up an internet page but do so flaunting everything they’d been told to keep private. Proudly displaying phone numbers, schools attended, upcoming events, friends. . . and pictures as well! It was like advertising for trouble. A veritable cache of data for anyone looking to do harm.
Reading this article I was mortified and frightened. But I knew my kid couldn’t be involved. We had a great, open relationship where she shared everything. She was smarter than that. She knew better.
So I asked her, point blank,
“Are you on My Space?”
” No, Mom, I don’t even know what that is.”
I looked her in the eyes, showed her the article and asked again,
“Are you sure you’re not on My Space because I’m going to check right now. So if you are, tell me before I find it.”
She was adamant in her assurances that she was no where to be found on the site.
Clearly she had thought I was either too old to understand, not going to follow through on my threat, or her page would be impossible to retrieve. Somehow in her 12 year-old mind this made sense. In a matter of minutes I saw her smiling face peering back at me from the computer. She was busted.
Yep, she had lied, to my face! When caught, was she ashamed, sorry, repentant? No, she tried to argue why she had every right to be on it! Forget she had lied straight to my face. Forget she had exposed all her personal data to everyone, against everything she’d been taught. Here she was, defending her lie!
But that’s what children do. they push their boundaries, learn through trial and error what’s right and wrong by our example and guidance. It’s now debatable whether by 18 or closer to our early 20’s the frontal lobe becomes fully formed. That imperative last piece to click into place, allowing us the ability to make informed judgments and understand appropriate behavior. That’s why we don’t treat children like adults legally. They are effectively sociopaths until adulthood.
But that didn’t change the fact that her dishonesty affected our relationship. It took months for her to earn back my trust. Months not to have her behavior and actions questioned instead of out right accepted. It was a hard lesson- how quickly trust can be lost and how much time, work, and energy it takes to gain it back. One she still remembers to this day.
We all make mistakes. We all occasionally say things we wish we could take back. No one is perfect. The best route is to admit the truth immediately. But the true meaning of character is what happens when you’re caught. Do you continue to defend the indefensible, or own up to your lie, and show in actions, not just words that you’re sorry and will do whatever it takes to regain what’s been lost? This is the only way society, with all its intricate relationships can function.
Words matter. Without them nothing can exist. Not honor, not respect, not trust.