Let Your Yes Be Yes

Like what seems to be half of the country (at least) my family was waiting for our copy of the latest Disney animated movie to arrive at our house today.  Having pre-ordered it, we had been guaranteed that it would arrive at our house on the release date.  In fact, one of the reasons that I had ordered online was that I was guaranteed a delivery date of the release date.

My five year old was counting down the days by the end of last week.  Every day, he would ask how many more days it was until we would get our movie.  The excitement was building and when the day finally arrived, he would run to the door any time he thought he heard a truck pass by.  Dinner time came and still no package.  I had to run off to a rehearsal, and the package was still not there.  Finally, during my rehearsal, I got a text from my wife telling me that I had a heartbroken boy at home because the movie had not arrived.

I was determined to do something at that point.  When I finally arrived home, I looked through my emails from the online retailer to find that the confirmation email that I had received for the order said that I had a “Guaranteed Delivery Date.”  Well, that seemed odd to me.  Usually, when something is guaranteed, there is something to back it up.  With technology being as it is today, I decided to chat with someone from the retailer online.

After getting nowhere with the initial representative, I asked for a supervisor.  I was not getting the answers that I was looking for.  In fact, I asked the representative multiple times why this retailer would send out an email with a “Guaranteed Delivery Date” listed and then not fulfill that guarantee.  Instead, I continued to get excuses as to why the package hadn’t arrived.

Now, before you accuse me of being a completely arrogant and spoiled brat, let me explain my real issue.  It wasn’t so much that the package hadn’t come, packages come late all the time.  My frustration was that I had ordered something with a “guarantee” on it and that guarantee was not fulfilled.

I spoke with the supervisor and got the satisfaction that I was looking for and politely offered to her the advice that they might consider rewording their emails with the phrase “Estimated” rather than “Guaranteed.”  Say what you mean, mean what you say.  Don’t make promises you can’t keep.  Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.”

In fact, in the Book of James in the Bible, the writer uses that last phrase.  In James 5:12, the Message paraphrase puts it like this, “And since you know that he cares, let your language show it. Don’t add words like “I swear to God” to your own words. Don’t show your impatience by concocting oaths to hurry up God. Just say yes or no. Just say what is true. That way, your language can’t be used against you.”  Say what you mean, mean what you say.

It’s a valuable lesson for me to learn.  Do I make promises that I can’t keep?  Worse than that, do I make promises that I have no intention of keeping?  Do I make unreasonable promises?  Words are powerful tools and our words tell a lot about us.  If we flippantly make promises that we can’t keep, what will happen to our reputation, our sense of integrity?  Will people be able to trust what we say if we consistently make promises that are never fulfilled?

I strive to be a man of my word, but I need to be kept in check.  I need people around me to hold me accountable, making sure that I really am who I think that I am and say that I am.  This online retailer came through for me with compensation for their broken guarantee.  I wonder how many times I come through for people when I don’t keep my word.  Sometimes, all it takes is an acknowledgement that we dropped the ball, and that’s enough.  I would have been satisfied with less than what this retailer had given me but I did feel it was important for them to clarify their words in the future.

Take that to heart.  How do you use your words?  What kind of promises do you make?  How well do you keep those promises?  This whole thing gives me cause to stop and think the next time that I am making a promise to someone.  Is my word my bond or am I just filling the air with empty promises?

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