Four Steps to Becoming a Person of Your Word
“I’ll do it,” you say. Then the time comes to do it. What happens? Do you keep your word? When you tell your friend you will meet him at 6 o’clock, are you there at 6 o’clock? When you say you’ll finish that project by Wednesday morning, is it finished on Tuesday night?
“I had something come up.” “I forgot about it.” “I ran out of time.”
Because this attitude is so prevalent, most of us fail to recognize that breaking our word is a sin. It is so easy to break your word. Other people so often do it to you and to each other that they often won’t even fault you for it. They rationalize it just like you do: Something came up. I didn’t foresee this other factor. Things happen. No big deal.
Being a person of your word is an essential aspect of strong character.
Jesus Christ says, “[E]very idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36).
Christ also says, “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37; New King James Version). Is your yes really yes? Is your no really no?
It is not complicated to become a person of your word. However, it will take some effort on your part. When you faithfully practice the following four steps, you will be well on your way to achieving your goal.
1) Be careful what you promise.
“Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3). Before you tell someone you are going to do something, think about it. Carefully consider it. Refrain from saying you’ll deliver on something you know you can’t.
Don’t say you’ll keep a secret if you won’t do it. Don’t tell someone you’ll do a favor that you aren’t going to follow through on. Don’t say you’ll do something or be somewhere if, realistically, you probably won’t. If you are not sure you can deliver, then don’t promise. Be realistic in what you say you will do.
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:13-14; nkjv). This is very practical instruction. We are human; obstructions can arise. It is wise to state plans as probabilities rather than absolute promises.
2) Admit when you can’t do it.
If someone asks you something, makes a request or demand, if you know you can’t deliver, admit it. Don’t wiggle around or equivocate because you don’t want to seem rude. Be polite, of course, but learn to say no. If you have plans already, that is a great reason not to make more plans!
Lord Bulwer Lytton said, “Never be ashamed to say, whether as applied to time or money, ‘I cannot afford it’—‘I cannot afford to waste an hour in the idleness to which you invite me’—‘I cannot afford the guinea you ask me to throw away.’ Learn to say ‘No’ with decision, ‘Yes’ with caution—‘No’ with decision whenever it resists a temptation; ‘Yes’ with caution whenever it implies a promise. A promise once given is a bond inviolable.”
James 5:12 reiterates Christ’s command in Matthew 5:37. If you say no with decision and yes with caution (because you know it’s a promise), it will be far easier to let those noes remain noes and those yeses remain yeses.
3) Once you’ve said it, do it.
When you say you’ll do something, the other person must know your promise has value. When your word has gone out of your mouth, it must become a big deal to you to fulfill it. Write it down so you don’t forget. Use a calendar. Use a memo app on your device. Keep track of the details. Schedule them; follow through.
Fulfill your promise 100 percent: Do what you said you would, without excuse or hesitation.
Your word is your bond, even in the little things. Recognize even a small matter as an issue of character. Rather than changing your mind simply because of inconveniences, stick with your commitment and win that victory of character!
Also, keep your word to yourself—even when no one is watching. When you say you’re going to exercise three times a week, follow through.
Do whatever you must in order to fulfill that commitment, even in the littlest areas—and those successes will begin to multiply.
4) If you blow it, admit it.
Don’t lie or make up excuses. If you can’t do it, or you happen to fail in keeping your word, be honest. When you make a mistake, don’t ignore it. Don’t act like it’s not a big deal. Apologize! Be concerned about your reputation in this area. When you make a mistake, care enough to do what you can to fix it.
Then determine even more deeply, even more passionately, that the next time you will keep your word.