The four words in the oath sworn by the President, members of Congress, judges, soldiers and law enforcement officers in the U.S. and around the world asking for help keeping a committment. Just as we ask for help on our wedding day standing before family, friends and God in taking our marriage vows. Committments like these change lives. An oath to uphold the law subjects you to a higher standard from that day on. You step under a magnifying glass where your conduct and bearing are scrutinized. A vow to enter the covenant of marriage may be the single biggest life change any of us experience. Clearly these committments are set apart, but should they be taken more seriously than the others you make?
Trust is built on keeping your word, like your wedding vows or oath of office, but it also includes things like making plans with your kids, agreeing to take on a task at work or at home, anything at all that you commit to do for someone else. Being a man or woman of your word is what Ancient Principal #3; Keep your Committments is about. Whether it is made during a ceremony or during the course of your day, make committments thoughtfully and be prepared to follow through. Everyone around you will evaluate your trustworthiness by how you keep your word. Large or small, keeping a promise builds trust – failure tears it down.
Maybe your struggle is with overcommitting. Probably not a matter of being dishonest, but a failure to make an honest assessment that leads to not keeping your word. Too often I have found myself agreeing to do more than I can keep up with, cancelling an appointment, missing a deadline or failing to complete a task well because I have committed to too much. Without an honest assessment of how much you can take on it can be easy to “write a check you can’t cash.” Tom Peters, best selling business and leadership author, offers his contemporary formula for success: “under promise and over deliver.” Wise King Solomon provides the ancient perspective, “It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it” (Ecclesiastes 5:5).
A sacred vow, a solemn oath, a signed contract, a promise on a handshake or your spoken word, no matter what form it comes in, a committment made is a committment to keep. If you will be known by the promises you keep, don’t make them frivolously and deliver on the ones you do.
“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
With the big things and the small ones, simply mean it when you say ‘yes,’ and know when to say ‘no.’
Are there changes you need to make?