In my last blog I wrote about the agreements that our words create in the world and how our words become “tools of magic” when we keep these agreements. As promised, today we’re going to discuss what to do when you are out of integrity with your words and have broken your agreement.
First, there is a very important action we can take to maintain integrity of our words without breaking an agreement that we know we can’t keep – communicate immediately. If we made an agreement to have dinner with a friend on Saturday and we find out on Monday that our mom is making a surprise visit for the weekend, we can communicate with our friend and ask if dinner can be rescheduled. This seems fairly obvious to most of us, but I just wanted to clarify that if we change our agreement and both parties are cool with the change, then the agreement is not broken and no trust has been lost.
Note that if you were to call this friend an hour before dinner and say something like, “Um, yeah, so I actually can’t make it to dinner. Can we do it on Tuesday instead?” and her reply was, “Ohhh . . . I guess so,” not only is it unlikely that both parties are truly cool with the change (didn’t you hear the tone in her voice?), it’s also unlikely that your communication truly came from an earnest desire to be a person of integrity. If you truly understood the value of your word, the value of your presence, and the value of trust – both hers in you and yours in yourself – you would probably have (1) made the communication sooner, and (2) apologized for having made an agreement you can’t keep. This communication can still be light and easy.
When we break an agreement – meaning: we didn’t complete the project by the deadline; we didn’t show up when we said we would; we borrowed something, broke it and didn’t replace it; we didn’t pay our bill; etc. – there are three steps to getting back into integrity.
- Fix whatever damage was caused. If you didn’t complete the project, complete it. If you didn’t show up when you said you would, apologize. If you borrowed something and broke it, replace it. If we didn’t pay your bill, pay it. Whatever the repercussions of your broken agreement were, you are responsible for cleaning them up.
- Re-establish trust. When you break an agreement, trust is lost – your own trust in yourself and others’ trust in you. You have demonstrated to another that you can’t be trusted to complete the project, show up, borrow things, pay your bills, or whatever. And, you have given yourself the message that you can’t be counted on to do what you say you’re going to do. You must re-establish trust in yourself and demonstrate your trustworthiness to the other person. This is done with an extraordinary gesture that enhances the relationship. Go above and beyond. It is important that this gives you the experience of gaining trust and that it demonstrates your commitment to putting the relationship back in order.
- List all the ways in which you totally rock! You don’t necessarily have to do this exercise every time you break an agreement, but you should do it at least once. It’s especially important if you’re a serial agreement-breaker, since you have two big things undermining your sense of self-worth. First, you don’t really, truly understand that you matter. Second, you have amassed a large body of evidence that says you won’t necessarily do what you say you’re going to do. Write down all of the ways in which you bring value to your relationships and the world. Breaking agreements undermines the expression of this value. Integrity supports it.
Once you’ve completed this 3 step process you will be back in the game and ready to make magic and serve others. Also, it doesn’t matter if you broke an agreement yesterday or ten years ago – cleaning it up now creates so much trust and freedom in your life, it is worth the effort! In the comments below I’d love to hear about an experience that you have had with these steps to getting back into integrity with your word.
Briana Borten, Founder of The Dragontree and Co-Founder of Imbue Pain Relief Patch