Implications of devaluing your word : Always remember that your word, promise or assurance is your bond

Much too often these days, it seems as though, many individuals, companies, associations and even governments give their word too casually and with a degree of reckless irresponsibility. In the good old days, it was always generally assumed that a person’s word given seriously and solemnly was his bond.  Unfortunately, these days as a result of some people knowingly and deliberately tarnishing their own word, many individuals are wary of believing in others, especially politicians and even their own professional bodies, associations or NGOs.

Approach Made by an Acquaintance

I have heard the unfortunate story of an approach made by an acquaintance to a member of his cell group in his church. One evening, this acquaintance turned up unannounced at the home of his cell group member. It was assumed that he was making a friendly neighbourhood call on his fellow cell member. The relationship between the two individuals was only at an acquaintance level. Quite unexpectedly, this person then related a sob story of how his five year old daughter was down with a serious illness and that he needed to borrow some money to pay for the mounting expenses.

This was a strange request to make to someone who was a mere acquaintance. Why did he not go to his family, relatives or even his employer in the first instance? He had a ready answer. He had problems with his family and he did not wish to trouble his employer. The cell member did not quite buy his story but nevertheless, out of the goodness of his heart, decided to lend a hand. The request was for a soft loan of RM 1,000 to be repaid within a week. He also repeated the offer and promised to repay the loan within a week. The cell member offered him RM 300 which he quickly accepted and he then promised to return the sum the following Wednesday.

On the Wednesday in question, there was no sign of the person nor was there even a telephone call. So the cell member decided to follow up with the person the next day by telephoning him. He gave some excuse and quickly hung up. Subsequent efforts to reach him at his place of work drew a blank. He was always unavailable. Finally after three weeks, he finally managed to reach the person concerned. Instead of conveying his apologies and returning the amount borrowed, he went into a tirade about how useless such members were for hounding him for the return of the sum. He subsequently dropped out from the cell group and never returned the money. He had scored an own goal… and in the process devalued his words.

Commitment Given to a Boss

In the course of our working life, be it in MNCs, local companies or even in co-operatives or associations, it is quite common for us to be given deadlines for certain jobs / tasks to be completed. This requires us to plan our work accordingly and if there is any likelihood that you cannot complete the job in time, to request for an extension. Whether that extension is granted or not, your commitment given to the boss must be honoured.

If you are seeking to climb the corporate ladder in this company, the onus is on you to complete the task on time. How you do it, is really up to you. You may have to burn the midnight oil, so to speak, sacrifice some family and leisure time, seek the assistance of a colleague or two and complete the job on time. When your boss sees that you not only completed the job on time but did exceptionally good work, then you have begun the task of building a solid reputation at that company. It is important, therefore, that you work to honour a commitment given to a boss. Make your word count for something.

I will even go so far as to say, that this ability to honour your commitment should not just stop at your boss…it must also extend to your fellow colleagues and to your suppliers,  competitors, family and friends. Over time, your value to the company and to the other parties concerned will increase because you are now readily acknowledged to be a man of your word. This is a priceless recognition which you have earned by honouring your word.

Honour an Agreement Reached

Likewise too, state and federal governments have a solemn duty to honour any agreement that has been thoroughly discussed and agreed upon by the relevant parties.  All the terms of the agreement had been duly spelt out in the signed document.

It is highly irresponsible and unethical for one partly to thereafter, for its convenience and political expediency, to cherry pick which of the terms are to be honoured. As a responsible individual and a senior high ranking police officer who negotiated the agreement between the federal government and that other party, with the full support of the then serving prime minister said, the onus is on the federal government to stick to the terms of the agreement. The retired senior police officer is on record of having said quite curtly: ‘ You have to bloody well honour the agreement! ‘  Agreements cannot and should not be broken that easily  without serious consequences.

The downside of that unwise decision is that very few countries and organisations will want to get into agreements with a government that does not honour its commitment. By its ill advised actions, it has devalued its word. Even other external parties to the agreement saw fit to honour not just the agreement but even the spirit behind the agreement.

People Now Wary of Standing as Guarantors

I know of many families where there is now a practice in place to prevent these families from being caught in the financial mess of those who approach them with an appeal to stand as guarantors for a car, study or housing loan. If either husband or wife is approached, the party concerned is told, in no uncertain terms, that neither can stand as a guarantor.

Both stick to this policy rigidly and for good reason and it is just tough if they have to lose a family member, colleague or friend in this manner. There have been far too many unscrupulous people who have no sense of dignity, honour, pride or shame. They prey on the good nature of decent, hardworking, honest, law abiding citizens who mistakenly try to help them. They are then left to their own devices when the borrower absconds without a thought for the awful predicament he has placed these people in. For this group of people, their promises and assurances mean nothing because they had every intention to cheat in the first place.

George Bernard Shaw’s Insight

The late, great Irish poet and dramatist is reported to have made the comment that: ‘ Politics is the last refugee for scoundrels.’ When you see the antics that they get up to all over the world, you have to agree with him. Some promise you the moon before a general election but soon thereafter conveniently suffer from a bout of political amnesia.

I would go so far as to say that in today’s very materialistic world, deception is a game played by conmen of all shades who have a good understanding of man’s greed. Even professionals, like accountants, engineers, academics and specialist doctors who should have known better have fallen victim to these get rich quick schemes. The late Mahatma Gandhi once said: ‘ There is enough in this world for man’s need but not enough for man’s greed! ’

I believe the time has come for us to seriously consider the need to restore the balance and make it respectable, desirable and mandatory for all of us to honour our word and the commitment that we freely give. If in the process, we acquire a well deserved reputation, it is because you have earned it. If on the other hand, very few people trust or believe you, then you should accept responsibility for this sorry state of affairs brought on by your own careless actions to devalue your word. As someone wise once remarked quite accurately: ‘ Do not be fooled merely by what a person says. The real test is to watch what he does! ’


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