- A spouse faithfully promises to take care of some household business, to be faithful, to do a favor or chore; the promise is not kept, excuses are given, and you are admonished for having expected them to fulfill the promise.
- A grandchild promises to email or call a grandparent on a weekly basis as a requirement for receiving a gift of a computer, cell phone, etc; no call or letter is forthcoming, excuses are made.
- A contractor promises to complete a piece of work by a certain date; no one shows up to do the work, excuses are made.
- A utility company says that a technician will show up at your home for a repair between the hours of 2 and 5 PM; at 7 PM you receive a call saying that the visit will have to be re-scheduled, excuses are made.
- An invited guest to a wedding or dinner party RSVPs their intent to attend; without a phone call the guest simply does not show up.
- Politicians makes promises in order to get voted into office; the promises are broken and excuses offered.
We have all experienced one or more of these. It seldom feels good to be on the receiving end of a broken promise. When we express our displeasure, we are often told that we are uptight, rigid, controlling, have high expectations, etc. We are made to feel badly for having expected someone to honor their promise. Are we supposed to simply accept that this is the new way of the world?
Integrity in Relationships
What effect does having someone not deliver on a promise have on the relationship? For most people, the bond between them is weakened and trust is diminished. The relationship – whether with family members, friends, businesses, or our government – is damaged. People fail to understand that integrity – doing what one says they are going to do – is an important aspect of creating trust. And trust is a vital aspect of intimacy. When we default on a promise we are in effect saying that the other person who is counting on us, does not matter. What matters more to us is our own wishes at the moment. The other person comes second.
The most egregious violation of integrity is when a partner betrays their partner with an infidelity. The person who cheats tries to mollify their partner with such trite comments as “it was only sex,” “it didn’t mean anything,” or “everyone is doing it.” They fail to see that the betrayal is less about the infidelity than it is about the breach of trust. There was a promise to be monogamous, to be faithful and this promise was broken. Re-building the trust can take years. While this may be an extreme example of loss of integrity in a relationship, other breaches no matter how small can be equally damaging. This is especially true when they are frequent. Many relationships have been permanently damaged or ended simply because one party can no longer count on the other party to keep their word.
As individuals we have a choice: we can either lower the bar and accept that integrity, fulfilling promises, no longer matters or we can hold ourselves to a higher standard, one person at time, demanding of ourselves and others honor their word; we can hold ourselves and others accountable. The choice is ours.
Are you a person of integrity? You would like to believe that you are, but you find your life peppered with examples of hypocrisy. Your words and your actions do not line up.
[Please add your thoughts and experiences on this topic in the comment section of this blog. This blog is intended as a forum for folks to raise issues, share experiences, and promote dialogue on important issues of contemporary life. Please sign up as a Facebook Fan at www.docdreyfus.com/fanpage. For additional information about me and my practice, please visit my website at www.DocDreyfus.com.]