Letters to My Younger Self - Keep Your Word

August 8, 2001

Hello Me,

Hope you are doing well today after that hard loss to Northside last night. Of course, your bunt single did contribute to moving the runners over but let’s be honest, who’s ever bunted in slow-pitch softball before? Keep at it and maybe you’ll hit one out of the infield one of these days. I’m sure the guys have you play catcher for a reason.

Today I have to talk with you about something you really are going to have to work hard on. This won’t be easy for you, particularly because you have no clue what you are doing, but it will be necessary for you in regards to leadership, respect and integrity. The simple lesson is this: keep your word.

When you tell someone that you will do something, do it. If you can’t do it then let them know and communicate with them. If you can do it and don’t do it and don’t communicate with them you’re a liar. And stupid. So if you tell someone, “I’ll get that to you by the end of the week” you had better get it to them by the end of the week.

Here’s a few reasons why:

  • Even though you are young and inexperienced you’ve been called “pastor” at your church. This is a position of leadership and responsibility. You have a team of volunteers that are serving freely of their time and energy to carry out the vision and mission of the church. They are looking to you for leadership and understanding in carrying out that vision and mission. When they try to carry out a task that you’ve set before them they are also looking to you to supply necessary resources to accomplish this task. If you fail to keep your word in getting those resources to them then they fail at accomplishing what they have volunteered to do. Nobody likes to feel like a failure. Nobody signs up to help the guy that made them feel like a failure. Nobody trusts the guy that made them feel like a failure. You fail.
  • Integrity is measured in truth-telling. Think about this for just a moment; has God ever, ever failed to keep his word? Nope. It hasn’t happened yet and it never will. As an image-bearer of God you display that God is truth when you keep your word. When you fail to keep that word you distort the image of God and give room for people to wonder if God really will keep his Word.
  • It’s just plain rude. Seriously. It’s rude for you to tell someone that you will do something, or send something, or talk to someone, or be at something and then fail to do that thing. What’s even more rude is if you tell someone you’ll do something and then you don’t and you never communicate why that didn’t get done or why you can’t fulfill that obligation that you gave yourself to. Let your “yes” be yes and let your “no” be no. (James 5:12). Don’t be a coward and not communicate. Don’t be arrogant and not follow through. Keep. Your. Word.

I know that this will be a difficult lesson for you to learn. Not because you are a pathological liar and have no love for the truth, but because you are young and have such a small understanding of how these things and your failure in them affects people who serve with you. Believe it or not they want you to lead them. They want you to inspire and give them a vision for great things. They want to do great things. Part of them doing great things is having a leader who will follow through on helping them when he says he will.

I wish I could say that you won’t fail in this. And I wish that I could say you won’t see few bridges burned (and you burned) because you didn’t keep your word. Looking back at you from eleven years down the road allows you to see the pot-holes of why you failed them and why they blew up at you. There is plenty of blame to go around for sure. Work hard at keeping your word and communicating well when you can’t and don’t. Rest in the good news that Jesus never failed to keep His Word and because of this the Father will never see you as a failed-word-keeper. Then be who you are in Christ and keep your word.

I’ll chat at you next week. Until then remind your roommate to keep his word too and clean his bathroom. The apartment management might begin to wonder what the smell is all about.

Your Older, Growing Self, Jeremy