Keeping one’s word

My hiatus has come to an end — much to the dismay and chagrin of many I am certain. However, one must eventually come to the realization that it is time to pick up the pen and get back to it! Thus, I’m back to share with you my many meanderings, and inconsequential thoughts on those things that cause me pause and make me wonder the “why and wherefore” of it all. Such is the case today as I write this commentary — I have recently been confronted with a need to practice the difficult task of parsing what I hear and what I see when meeting with others; are they really saying what they mean or meaning what they say? Do their actions reflect the words I am hearing?

For instance, I just love it when people say to me, “I’m just telling you this because it is something that I’ve heard, not that I believe it or feel this way, but I wanted you to know, just for your own good.”

What they really mean is, “This is what I think you are doing wrong, and what I would do if I were you.” I have always believed that unsolicited advice is just that, unsolicited and generally unwanted — even though we’re all guilty of it from time to time. And then there are those who say, “I will do this or that, I promise, you can count on me” only to have them leave you waiting or disappointed when they fall short of their promise. I’m not normally a cynical person, but I am beginning to become one or at least understand those who are.

I find that with the many roads that I have traveled, the numerous board room tables I have sat around, and the listening and learning events in which I have participated, that I am in a time that has been unchartered and so terribly unfamiliar to me. I frequently flounder about looking for what to believe as well as too often wondering what is the right thing to say or to do.

Sometimes being politically correct is actually a good idea. Practicing humility, compassion, listening and using our mouth and our ears in proportion to their numbers is often times the best habits we can develop, albeit not always easy to do; these things require practice. Tripping over our words, asking forgiveness for the unintentional and insensitive comment, explaining that what we said wasn’t what we meant happens more often than we would like, but it does happen. And when it comes to honesty, it seems as though that is something that rarely enters into the equation when promises and apologies are made.

Words matter! I recently read the following, “You can say sorry a million times, say I love you as much as you want, say whatever you want, whenever you want. But if you’re not going to prove that the things you say are true, then don’t say anything at all. Because if you can’t show it, your words don’t mean a thing.” (I wish I could identify the individual who said this, but I can’t — I don’t even remember where I read it. However, if you know please enlighten me.)

When it comes to saying what you mean without the need to apologize for your insensitivity or the lack of honesty (better known as follow-through, keeping your word) I will give you a verse from Matthew 5:33 “And don’t say anything you don’t mean.” In Matthew 5:37, we learn, “Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.”

When I listen to those who pontificate and bluster their way into conversations or stand on street corners and podiums to let the world know what they think and camouflage their intentions with fancy words, I shudder. It takes me back to my early days of childhood when we learned about the golden rule, and sang the rhyme, “liar, liar, pants on fire.”

Have we gotten so far over our skis that we no longer hear what we say, or think about how our words might affect others? Where is the honesty? Have we entered a time when “say anything that sounds good and gets the applause regardless of whether or not it is true” is all that matters? And I’m not referring to just one group of people, but all people. Whether sitting at the lunch counter, visiting with family in the park, or just watching a movie with friends, what we say is a reflection of who we are, and words matter. Promises matter!

We need to mean what we say and say what we mean — we need to walk the talk! We need to keep our promises!

I’m back! I’ll try not to disappoint, but if I do, please let me know. In the meantime, I’ll say what I mean and mean what I say. I’ll be honest. I’ll try to provoke meaningful thought and conversation, but I won’t make promises that I know I can’t keep. So until next time . . .Sam says “woof.”

Have a great day.

Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com