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

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The Disappointment Of The Word Breakers

In-Shape Health Club, Napa, California, USA

February 1, 2023

"Without integrity nothing works."
"You can take your word back, and what you get then is your old life back."
answering Laurence Platt's question "Is it authentic for me, once I give my word to ever take it back?" in We Are The Word
This essay, The Disappointment Of The Word Breakers, is the sequel to Keeping Your Word Means Making Happen What You Said Is Going To Happen.

I am indebted to Mark "Rambo" Dicrosta who inspired this conversation.

We the people (yes, we the people)  will make a promise / give our word, then routinely not keep our promise / break our word. Even more than that, we'll not give a second thought to the impact breaking our word has on our lives, on others, on Life itself. For the most part, we have it that keeping our word doesn't matter, that it's but one of many options, that it's not the bastion of workability  it really is, that if I say I'll do something, it's only capriciously true.

In my earliest inquiries into who I am as word (yes, "who I am as word" not "who I am as my  word") I had it that I could define integrity as "keeping my word". That's actually not a bad start ... until I began noticing its shortcomings. For example, let's say I give my word I'll meet you at 3:45pm, and a cyclone takes out the road to our meeting place. I can't ie don't keep my word to meet you. Do I still have integrity? Well ... no, not if integrity is keeping my word.

Clearly it's crazy to allow a cyclone to be the arbitrator of my integrity. But listen: a cyclone preventing me keeping my word isn't the problem. The problem is when integrity is defined only as keeping my word which can therefore be arbitrated by a cyclone, a definition which won't hold water (no pun intended).

If there's something essential I got from that inquiry, it's that keeping my word is certainly a component of integrity. Yet in and of itself, it's neither the main component nor is it a powerful  component. The most powerful component of integrity focuses less on keeping my word, and more on "honoring  my word".

With all that said, my opening observation that "we the people (yes, we the people) will make a promise / give our word, and then routinely not keep our promise / break our word" is really an indictment of the state of affairs prior  to being in the inquiry that differentiates between integrity as keeping my word and honoring my word. It addresses that certain state of affairs when we're unaware of (or choose to ignore) the impact of breaking our word on our lives, and on our relationships with others (and hence on others directly), and the impact of trivializing word, of diminishing its impact on the quality of Life itself.

"I'll call you" he said, "Let's get together for coffee.". We've all heard that before - or at least something quite similar to it. In saying it, he was giving me his word he'll call. And when he didn't call, I felt it. You've felt it. We've all felt it. At worst it's a sense of being lied to. At best it's the sense of disappointment. When you give me your word and you break it (or you don't honor it) I feel let down, disappointed, even taken for granted, used, cheated, and cheapened.

This is an extremely wide-spread, particularly malignant malaise. No country is immune to the debilitating effects of its contagion, and yet the only effective vaccine available is one you develop for yourself and inoculate yourself with. I've noticed that its pre-eminent symptom is the disappointment of the word breakers. Interimly the disappointment is experienced by those with whom the word breakers break their word without honoring their word. Ultimately the disappointment is experienced by the word breakers themselves, given that without integrity, nothing works. The collective cost to everyone of breaking our word without honoring our word is workability across the board in life. It's a relentlessly severe, steep cost for which we all pay, not just the word breakers.

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