How do we define our wealth? Money in the bank? A full stock portfolio? Real estate holdings? A bundle of precious metals such as gold and silver? A treasure chest of precious jewels?
Is this not the simple truth – that a man’s true wealth is only worth what his word’s worth? If a man can’t keep his word, then what can be said of his intrinsic wealth and worth? If his words are worthless, then is he not worthless? Are not empty words merely empty containers, mirages in the desert, phantasms? In this age does it not seem there is a dangerous trend of individuals, companies or corporations having no concern for honoring their word? With this in mind, what is our true worth?
If we forgo keeping our word in order to gain a certain amount of money, for example, then whatever the amount of money we gain in the process becomes our worth, does it not? But isn’t our character worth more than money? More than celebrity? More than fame? More than our name on some door?
Wouldn’t it be better to eliminate the monetary or material factor associated with our worth and live a life based on the ethical foundation that our wealth is only worth what our word’s worth? What has happened to the virtue of an individual or entity keeping his word, honoring his commitments, obligations and promises with the sole intent of preserving his character, his greatest asset?
In “A Preface to Morals” (1929), Walter Lippman said: He has honor if he holds himself to an ideal of conduct though it is inconvenient, unprofitable, or dangerous to do so. In other words, having honor is not about “talking the talk” or “walking the walk” but “walking the talk.” Do we “walk our talk,” or do we simply talk the talk and walk the walk without any commitment to walking our talk? In simple terms, do we do what we say we’re going to do in spite of any inconvenience, profitability or danger?
Confucius said, The superior man acts before he speaks and afterwards speaks according to his actions. In other words, the superior individual walks his talk.
Why do some individuals, companies, corporations and organizations not keep their word? Have they lost the concept of “honor?” Have they devalued themselves so much there is no concern for who they are or what they stand for? Has their greed and self-interest so consumed them that they throw themselves away for a shadow, forsaking the substance?
There seems to be a common maxim in today’s world: If it’s not in writing it doesn’t count. In other words, even if we give our word to someone and we don’t put our words in writing, whatever we say or have said doesn’t count; it has no value and therefore can be dismissed. It only has value if we sign our signature to our own statement given freely without duress. Honestly, does our word really have to be put in writing to be enforced? Maybe legally, but on a personal basis, shouldn’t our word trump our signature? Have we so lost sight of our higher selves that we cannot honor what we say? Have we disconnected ourselves from an ethical tether, thinking that just because we don’t put our name to paper our word doesn’t count, that it’s meaningless, worthless and can be excused?
The simple question is, “Why can’t we honor our word?” Have we so degraded ourselves that we’ve sold our souls for a few meaningless coins, even a few dollars or even a lot of dollars? What is money anyway? When we die, our money surely isn’t going with us, nor is anything we purchased with it. Where then is the spiritual benefit of the material things we gained by violating our word to acquire them? We destroy our relationships for such meaningless things, sell our souls for them, try to keep people from stealing them, and then when we die, people fight over them. In the end, what we thought had value is valueless. So why not place our focus on keeping our word, which goes directly to our character, which will, in turn, go with us after we depart this life and move into the next?
A man’s wealth is only worth what his word’s worth. Talking the talk or walking the walk is meaningless. Only walking the talk counts. Money, power, riches, fame, fortune and celebrity-the things commonly driving most of us-are valueless if they are acquired through violation of our word-our bond. Keeping our word is the true and only measure of who we are. Wealth, fame and fortune are nothing but illusory facades. To not keep our word is to violate our own spirit, our intrinsic self worth and leads us down a road of misfortune, ethical poverty and ultimate ignominy, not to mention the damage we do to other people’s lives by not keeping our word. On the other hand, to keep our word not only makes us rich, noble, trustworthy and honorable, it guarantees a peaceful, trustworthy and noble journey forward. ~finis
Copyright 2011 by Richard Andrew King