Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


Honoring Your Word

North Shore, O'ahu, Hawai'i, USA

July 11, 2010



This essay, Honoring Your Word, is the companion piece to
  1. Changing My Mind
  2. A New Now: Breaking Your Word Yet Maintaining Integrity
in that order.

It is also the third in a group of five written in Hawai'i: It is also the sequel to
  1. Keeping Your Word Means Making Happen What You Said Is Going To Happen
  2. Keeping Your Word Is A Black And White Issue
in that order.

I am indebted to Michael Jensen who inspired this conversation.



Wwerner Erhard with collaborators Michael Jensen, Steve Zaffron, Kari Granger and Jeri Echeverria's groundbreaking new work on Performance and Integrity and Leadership lays bare inter alia  the difference between keeping your word  and honoring your word. They do this at various junctures in many of their ventures into heretofore uncharted territory which once complete, are documented with meticulous  care and detail then made available via the internet.

I don't intend to redefine honoring your word  in this conversation in my own way. That's not what this conversation should do or is about. The definition of honoring your word put forth by Werner, Michael, Steve, Kari, and Jeri in the Werner Erhard Paper Experience is masterful, complete, and sufficient. I strongly recommend you read it and familiarize yourself with it at the links provided above. Given I've listened their work, it would be inauthentic if I propose my own definition of honoring your word or (worse) repackage their definition as mine.

What I do intend to do here, what would be authentic  for me to do here, is to share the valuable insight I get from Werner, Michael, Steve, Kari, and Jeri's definition of honoring your word which not only empowers me but also clears up confusion and obfuscation in and around the area of keeping  my word and what this bodes for integrity.

As in Life, I've grown up in Werner's work. It isn't static. It's a constantly unfolding process. Things I thought, wrote, and spoke years ago which were breakthroughs  for me at the time, now sometimes seem trite  to me, not fully developed, at times even naïve. Not wrong. Not invalid. Just young. As transformation develops, new opportunities and possibilities emerge. And along with them, new insights and ideas. Maturer  insights and ideas.

When I was younger (but not much younger) I considered a key component of integrity  to be keeping my promises ie to be keeping my word. I'm not about to change this. When I'm in integrity I keep my word. And I keep my word not in order to be good, not in order to be upright, not even in order to do the right thing. It's none of the above. Rather, when I'm in integrity I keep my word in order to keep my word. Or, said another way, when I'm in integrity I keep my word because I keep my word. And if I don't keep my word then I say I'm out of integrity.

That's how it was when I was younger.

Here's the problem with that:

Defining integrity in terms of keeping my word doesn't allow for me not  keeping my word yet having my integrity intact. Said the other way, defining integrity in terms of keeping my word doesn't allow for me being in integrity when I'm not keeping my word.

Wait! Is this even possible?  Is it possible to not keep your word yet still be in integrity? There's no question about it: as a bastio of integrity, keeping my word is paramount.

With that in mind, consider these situations:



The answers to all of the above  are yes I'm out integrity if  I define integrity in terms of keeping my word. Defining integrity solely in terms of keeping my word is what I did when I was younger.

Pretty soon I start to notice this definition of integrity is inadequate. Pretty soon I start to notice defining integrity in terns of "keeping my word no matter what"  really blurs integrity with being good (morality), with being upright (interpretation), and with doing the right thing (judgement). And integrity is really none of the above. So what's integrity?
Werner Erhard asserts integrity isn't so much keeping  your word, as it is honoring  your word. Furthermore it's honoring your word as yourself. What's the difference? How does this play out in real time?

As soon as I know I've not kept my word or am not keeping my word or won't be keeping my word, I can let the people know who count on me to keep my word, that I haven't kept my word or am not keeping my word or won't be keeping my word. I can clean up any mess my not keeping my word causes by taking responsibility for it. I can then remake my promise, make an entirely new promise, or not promise again. This way, even when I'm not keeping my word I'm being responsible for my word, honoring it as myself. By honoring my word as myself, I'm in integrity.

It's often noted the bigger you get, the more you take on. The more you take on, the vaster  your game is. The vaster your game is, the huger  your promises become. The huger your promises become, the likelihood you won't keep all of them expands exponentially  so much so that it's also often noted "If you're keeping all your promises you're playing too small.".

Honoring your word as yourself, keeping your word, and being responsible for not keeping your word whenever you're not keeping your word is the presence of integrity in the face of whether you keep your word or not.

This is what I get from Werner, Michael, Steve, Kari, and Jeri. It literally changes my outlook on life. A whole new vista of possibilities emerge.



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