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Living Life Cover2I was having a conversation with a friend who asked, “whatever happened to civility?”  Without thinking I said, “I guess it has gone by the wayside along with integrity.”  We both laughed. But it left me thinking.

I recall a time when someone said that he or she would do something it actually got done.  I remember when someone said, “I will call you on Monday” they actually called on Monday! And when they could not or did not do so, they would give you advance warning or make an apology for not doing so. Today it seems that making promises, giving one’s word, or making a commitment, means nothing more than the “ how are you doing” greeting that is used instead of “hello.”

I cannot tell you how many times in the last month alone I have had people tell me that will call, mail, or do something and nothing happened. Even more frustrating than counting on them is the defensive or even critical response levied at me for reminding them. I have been accused of being rigid, demanding, or “laying a guilt trip” on the offending party simply because I reminded them of their commitment.

It doesn’t seem to matter what my relationship to the offending party is. It could be my stock broker who says that he will contact me right after Labor Day (and it is now October), my webmaster who says I will call you Friday (that was two weeks ago), a relative who says I will have it for you this weekend (that was last week) or a grandchild who says, “the check is in the mail”. These are all lovely people who appear live in a different world than mine where making commitments has no real meaning or value.  Nor does taking full responsibility for their failure to follow through seem to be important to them.

However, I imagine that if I asked any of them whether they thought they were persons of integrity, they all would say, “definitely!”  I also imagine that each one of them would be just as annoyed as I am if they were on the receiving end of someone’s failure to honor a commitment.  So I am left to wonder whether I have a different standard for what it means to give one’s word? Or is my definition of integrity inappropriate for today’s world?

Perhaps in today’s world expecting people to act with integrity, to do what they say they are going to do, to do the right thing just because it’s the right thing to do, is just as antiquated as expecting people to act with civility toward one another.

I do not want to see integrity as a value disappear from the landscape of human discourse. I want to believe people when they give their word. I believe that much is lost when we cannot count on people to do what they say they are going to do. I believe that integrity is the foundation of trust.  If I cannot trust that you will do what you say, that you will honor your agreements, fulfill your promises or that you will show up for that which you say you will, then how can we have a relationship of any consequence? If people cannot depend on one another in this manner, then everything that is said will be taken with a grain of salt. As has often been said, “talk is cheap.”  It takes action in the form of follow through to show  the true character of a person.

What are your thoughts?

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Dr. Dreyfus is a nationally recognized clinical psychologist, relationship counselor, sex therapist, and life coach in the Santa Monica – Los Angeles. The profits from his latest book, LIVING LIFE FROM THE INSIDE OUT along with his other five books, are being donated to charity through the website Book Royalties for Charity and can be purchased through Amazon.com. Please become a fan on his Facebook Fan Page by indicating “like” on the page by clicking here. You can also find more tools to help you experience a more fulfilling life by clicking here to visit his website.]