Integrity—How Keeping Your Word Could Mean Abandoning Yourself

A lot of dudes think that integrity means, “keeping my word.”

Let’s take a closer look.

In my experience, this approach can get very rigid in relationships. Some men have it that personal integrity means keeping my word while abandoning myself, so that’s what they do. Then they resent the other person for not applauding them for keeping their word. “Keeping my word” can be another sneaky way of “trying to be good” in order to not upset the relationship.

So, if you are this person, investigate it a bit more. Notice if you are running some obligation that you need to follow through on, otherwise, “Other” might think you are lame, flakey, or unreliable. Be willing to change your mind, back out, cancel plans, especially if it’s coming from you honoring you. If people lose trust in us because we change our tune, that’s okay, because their dismay can serve to strengthen our ability to be even more true to ourselves.


  • Bob Munro

    Reply Reply February 7, 2013

    If you look up “integrity” it has a number of meanings and I’m not sure that the definition is to “Keep my word”. I think it’s extremely important that a man (not sure about a Dude) learns to keep his word. Do what you say you are going to do.

    If we know who we are, what our purpose is and what is important to us this is really not a difficult thing to do. We also need to think before we commit so that we will make commitments that we can keep.

    If you’ve ever worked with men where your life depends on each other this is extremely important. Examples would be the military, police, firefighter, oil rigs, construction or any dangerous job. Believe me you want to surround yourself with men that “keep their word”. If you’ve ever been involved in a partnership or business with a man that doesn’t keep his word you’ll get screwed.

    Part of the problem with our society and our culture is that we make it OK for men to break their word. If men kept their word we could do away with Lawyers. Imagine if we had a world where politicians and bankers kept their word.

    My dad had a saying “A Man without his Word has Nothing”. My dad was known as a man that kept his word. I do my best to life my life that way and it has served me well.

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply February 12, 2013

      Bob, good points. your examples are important ones where “keeping my word” better happen or someone’s life might be at stake. I get that.

      I also feel some rigidness in your perspective here, which is my point. many men get rigid around integrity, then they lack flexibility. i’m not in the military, i’m not a fire fighter. I’m not a lawyer or a cop. Your dads saying is shaming and old school. it’s not that simple in my direct experience with myself or other men.

      • Sammy

        Reply Reply February 12, 2013

        Jayson, it is interesting, but I have always thought that guilt has to do with what you do and shame with what you are. To me, the saying “A Man without his Word has Nothing” could be guilt inducing(not shaming) and that might not be a detrimental thing. A man who chooses not to keep his word could very well cause hurt (physical or mental) to another who was depending on him. We are social animals and as such do not live in a vacuum. What we do affects other people, and the feeling of guilt gives us the opportunity to assess our actions and decide if we can, or even should, do whatever we want to be true to ourselves. It gives us pause to consider others in our own equation.

        On the other hand, “A Man without his Word is Nothing” would be shaming, as it about the person, not the actions. It might be a semantics thing.

  • Sammy

    Reply Reply February 12, 2013

    I agree with Bob. While it is OK to change your mind or decide that something needs to be done differently, it is not acceptable to KEEP breaking your word because you don’t feel like doing it after you agreed to do something. Being only true to yourself at the cost of people you love being unable to trust you is counterproductive. Instead, don’t agree to something you have no desire or intention of doing. If your loved ones need to walk away because you are flaky or unreliable, and they need someone who is reliable, then so be it. Choices will have been made.

  • Jeff Navarro

    Reply Reply February 12, 2013

    Bob and Sammy, without disagreeing with you, I think the two of you are missing Jayson’s point.

    My guiding definition of integrity is “internal consistency”. (Words being only limited signposts for concepts, I don’t even think that definition is complete for me…but that’s what I work with)

    To me, “keeping one’s word” is not integrity…it’s simply one example of something that might arise from integrity…an outward manifestation of having integrity. And, to always keep your word is certainly a good practice for learning/building integrity.

    But which is the higher principle? Always doing exactly what you said you would do? Or going deeper, and doing what your inner truth demands, even if it doesn’t match the words that came out of your mouth?

    I think the examples of military/police/etc are irrelevantly extreme…in what universe could it be seen as admirable for someone to say “Sorry guys, I know I said I’d help you through this life-threatening situation intact, but I decided what *I* really need is to write in my journal.” You’re absolutely right, it’s tough to justify that in any discussion about integrity.

    But what about “Hey bro, I know I said I’d help you get some weed…but I’m not feeling good about it.”

    Or, “I know I entered this committed relationship with you, but I find it’s not working for me, so I’d rather end it now than be together forever.”

    Or, “Honey, I know I said I’d go shopping with you, but to be honest, I’m finding myself really dreading it…mind if I get productive around the house instead?”

    I think there are situations when *not* keeping your word is actually more in service of one’s integrity. If a guy were to notice himself continually making commitments that don’t feel integrous, the first step towards greater integrity would be to start breaking them…with the greater self-awareness, hopefully the next step would be to start seeing the conflict before the commitment is even made.

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