“With lies, you may get ahead in the world — but you can never go back.” – Russian Proverb
You can be the noblest character: trustworthy, loyal, caring and strong, patient and honest, nevertheless, others might see you as second best. Fact! So why is it still important to become a person others can rely on? Short answer: it’s to do with self-respect. If I give my word, it’s given. Keeping one’s word is the crown of character in my world. We can discuss many things but if you ever want me to do something, ask me to promise.
Writing this I’m sitting at my grandfather’s desk. My grandfather had a glue factory, and he knew very well that if you cannot trust a man’s word, you cannot trust his signature because it’s all about a question of honour: a man is only as good as his word.
When the German government started its energy transition and the traffic light coalition later joined the sanctions against Russia people believed the government had weighed the costs and could deliver. Now we are facing skyrocketing inflation and a real energy crisis. Suddenly, the government is bringing dirty coal plants back online and telling people to take shorter showers. Clearly, the government isn’t able to finish what it has started. It will soon be mocked because it is failing to keep its word. While you can’t live commitment-free, make sure you can complete what you have begun.
I once had an appointment at the notorious Torgau prison. They were looking for an English teacher, and I applied for the job. When the prison psychologist asked me whether I was able to say no, I immediately knew what she wanted to find out. She wasn’t so much interested in my good intentions but rather in my commitment to fulfil them. In the end, talking the talk is not enough, you also have to walk the walk.
I’m a theologian, and I pity that in modern-day theology the word has lost its meaning. Everything can be interpreted freely, there is nothing sure to hold onto. Yet, it’s easy to turn a friend into an enemy if you don’t keep your promises because it’s obvious that if you care about someone, you’ll keep your words, and you expect the same vice versa. Sir Winston Churchill once said: “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” Integrity is not for everyone.
To sum it up, my Lutheran faith, life and family background have taught me to say what I mean and mean what I say. Even though this should be the norm, it often makes me stand out. For me, keeping one’s word is a token of nobility and goodness, and it shows respect to others as well as to oneself. I’ve got strong moral principles and I don’t reject leadership. The best way to lead is leading by example. If you want to put me to the test, ask me to promise.