Regaining the meaning of your word


There are two words in the English language that are essential to the stability of a culture. They are words of immense weight and magnitude. These words are assertive and final. Despite their grandeur they are small words of one syllable with two and three letters respectively. The travesty of modern times is that they are now treated as small inconsequential words, but to continue to treat them as such will increasingly weaken society. These words are ‘yes’ and ‘no.’

Jesus taught that people did not need to swear an oath to affirm their word. Giving their word with a simple yes or no was sufficient and preferable. One did not need to swear by something greater than himself in order to convince a person that his word would be kept. He was to manage himself in such a way that he did what he said he was going to do. This is no easy task. The words ‘yes’ and ‘no’ can only bear the weight that they are demonstrated to uphold.

In a culture where your word is your bond, these words are protected and believed. When this is not the status quo, there is much work to be done to re-establish the trust necessary for these words to signify their intended meaning.

In order to have the wherewithal to work towards this end, one must understand the value of a culture where yes means yes and no means no. People want to know what this will practically do to make a difference in their lives.

Saving Time

First, it will save time. Because man has dominion over the earth, people can structure their time rather than be at the mercy of time. It does not have to have dominion over them, for they can measure it and manage their use of it. To do this requires dependability and conscientiousness. When someone says they will do something at or by a certain time, doing so will maintain the organization of the time of the work or event. If it is not done by that time, all the other gears in the project grind to a halt and time is wasted. Either people are scrambling to find a replacement, or they are attempting to work around the person that fell through. Sometimes the thing has to be canceled and/or rescheduled because of the failure for yes to be yes.

Saving Money

Next, a loss of time is a loss of money. When a job, project, event, or meeting falls through expenses are incurred that would not have otherwise been incurred. Someone has to pay that bill.

Someone, and many times more than one person, has lost time and money. This often creates a chain reaction of events that are now off-kilter. Because one thing is now delayed or postponed other things have to be delayed or postponed and so it goes; a domino effect usually is set into motion.

The Big Picture

Now multiply this happening in one business situation by hundreds of thousands of situations. Consider how many businesses and organizations there are in a city and how many times in an hour someone did not heed their word and caused a loss of time and money. Think of how much money would then be lost in the entire city in one day alone. Think about how many projects are not being done efficiently due to a break down in keeping one’s word.

Saving Relationships

Beyond the time management and financial problems, there are relational problems. Friends or co-workers do not have established trust. Teamwork is adversely affected because the work is more likely to get done if an employee takes sole responsibility and does not have to worry about being written up due to the fault of another employee not doing his share. Moreover, companies distrust their clientele or customers because they do not expect them to pay what they say they will pay or show up where they are accepted to be.

When safeguards have to be put in place to protect oneself or one’s company against the loss created by a lack of dependability, the cost is offset onto the customer.

These are only a handful of the problems that are created by not keeping one’s word. These alone ought to be enough to establish the need for cultural reform in this area.


Keeping your word requires self-management. First, you have to pay attention to what you say. Many times people say yes, or even no, out of habit, without thinking. This will never work. One must be making a conscientious choice when a person says yes or no. Consider what is being asked. Find out what date, time, length of time, amount of effort, amount of money, etc. is involved. Without all the details one cannot give an honest yes or no. Then make a deliberate well thought out response. You may want to agree to the entire matter, or you may need to make certain qualifications that will make it something you are better able to manage. For instance, “I’d like to help, but Monday will not work for me, can we agree to Tuesday?” If agreed and you say yes, then you have more to do to keep that yes.

Self-management involves doing what is necessary to remember your commitment. Only you can manage you. Maybe you need to write it on your calendar or set an alarm on your phone. Do whatever you have to ensure you remember. Next, when other things come up that will conflict with your prior agreement you have to work through the conflict. You cannot make another yes for Tuesday that will conflict with the first one. There will always be people who will get angry with you for this, but part of your managing you means their attitudes are not part of your assignment of managing you. They can go on being angry, but you are managing you and keeping your word. These angry people should one day come to realize that that is beneficial to them when it is their turn to benefit from your yes.

Saying No

A crucial part of keeping one’s word is the ability to say no. Jesus said that it is better to say you will not do a thing and then do it, then to say you will and fail to do it.

When you do not know if you should say yes to a matter for whatever reason, you need to say no. Saying “no” relieves you of obligation, but allows you to still do the thing if you are so able. Many people opt for a lack of commitment either way so that they do not have to manage themselves. This often leaves the person asking for an answer hanging without any way of knowing if you will come through or not. There are some reasons for the use of the word “maybe” but it should be reserved for certain situations where more deliberation is required and you are working to give a firm yes or no. Again, no is better than maybe. With no, you can still come through but are not being depended upon to do so.

However, another aspect of saying no is when you are keeping the word ‘no’. People need to believe that your no means no just as much as your yes means yes. If you say you will not do something, then it must be established that you will not do the thing you have committed not to do. Perhaps your employer asked you not to tell anyone at the office about the pay raise you received. You said you would not do so. Then you must not do so. Otherwise, the boss, the co-worker you told, and anyone else who hears of it will know that no does not mean no to you.

Keeping your word and letting your yes be yes and your no be no will enhance your life by strengthening your relationships, and by saving you time and money. It will not come without a cost. People want more than can be reasonably given. They will press for you to break your commitments so that they can get more from you. But more cannot happen unless commitments are kept. When you are managing yourself, you separate their problems from yours and society at large is a little bit better for it.

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