Knowing this to be the case, then it makes sense to invest the time to bring your words and actions into alignment. First, it will make you feel better about yourself to know that you are a person of integrity. Second, it will immediately begin to improve all the relationships in your life.
I remember very distinctly pausing with a sense of shock and horror because I genuinely thought everyone had this same driving need to walk his or her talk. I realize now that was more than a little naive. When you operate from a certain mindset you tend to think that everyone else does as well and in most cases, it definitely is not. It is not surprising that a short time later I ended my friendship with that person. I could no longer deny that we did not share the same values and that I could not trust her. And, if I can’t trust someone then they are not a person I desire to have in my life.
From as early as I can remember, my father always drove home the concept that “If your word means nothing, you’re nothing’ He felt that honor and integrity were paramount for a quality life. He’d say “you come into this world naked and you leave the same way, so at the end of the day all you ever really have is your name and what it stood for.” Maybe this is why I always felt such a driving need to know what it was that I believed, why I believed it and that I should live my life in accordance with those beliefs so that my actions were simply a physical representation of those beliefs.
What I think is very important to understand here is that if someone blatantly has no regard for, if what they say and what they do are not in alignment, then how can you trust anything they say about anything? If someone does not care if their words and actions are congruent then they are essentially saying that the words they speak carry no weight or meaning. This is inherently dishonest. And, you can probably guess that the person will probably not see themselves as liars but they are in the sense that they don’t believe what they are saying because if they did, then they would be living it. In this scenario, they are simply spewing propaganda. A person who does this assumes no debt to be paid for the privilege of saying the words they have chosen to speak. If you want to know someone’s character you simply need to listen to his or her words and then watch their actions. That will tell you whether or not they are honest and have integrity. Or, if they are in the habit of saying whatever sounds good but actually only doing that which is convenient.
One of the rituals I have embraced in my life is the process of proactive self-evaluation on a daily basis. Each day I ask myself… “Am I living my values? Am I actively working to engage and live my values at the highest level?” I evaluate my words and actions and decide in which areas I need to strengthen certain habits and rituals. It is not always pretty to have to ‘own’ our behavior and acknowledge that we slipped into our ego and said or did something that was not the ‘highest/best’ response to a given scenario. However, I do believe there is honor and integrity in going back and acknowledging your slip-up to whomever you may have infringed upon. We are all a work in progress and there are bound to be times when we slip up when we get triggered by someone or something and we say or do something that is not in alignment with who we say we are but the integrity comes in owning that mistake and acknowledging this is not who I want to be and that you are sorry for your actions. To live a life of congruence is a practice. This is because our egos are very insecure and they can get triggered very easily. But owning that trigger and then taking actions to rectify the situation is paramount. That is walking your talk to the best of your ability at that moment. Sometimes we can have a contradiction and not even know it. If we don’t see the contradiction that is an innocent mistake, if we see the contradiction and don’t work to correct it, then we are not being congruent and in integrity with ourselves.
Let me share an example of what I mean. A few months back I read a headline of a female hunter killing a giraffe, looked at the photo of her posing with it, and then read a few lines of the article and posted it on my wall with a judgmental comment. Later in the day, someone informed me that the Giraffe was old and weak and that the villagers had asked her to kill it and the animal would be used for food to feed the villagers. The person’s post completely called me out on my post. I could not let the person’s post go. I felt very badly about what I had posted about the hunter. The next day I posted a picture of the female hunter and I wrote an open letter of apology. I was wrong. I had made an ill-informed post that was assaulting her character and I needed to rectify it. Some friends lauded me as being amazing for owning up to that and I responded that I wasn’t amazing, that I simply had to post that apology to be able to live with myself. I had to assuage my guilt for my misstep. I made a mistake and I needed to acknowledge it and make reparations because that is in alignment with my beliefs about right and wrong and being accountable for our actions.
Each day offers us another opportunity to raise our standards. No one is perfect but ‘perfect discipline’ is the key. If we desire to ‘walk our talk’ then we need to discipline ourselves to pay attention to our words and actions and make adjustments as necessary when we make a misstep. What I have found is that by embracing this philosophy and the daily rituals it brings with it, creates a life that is filled with continual growth and evolution.
Your words do matter. I recently told a friend about a story a colleague of mine told me years ago. He sat on the board of a multi-million dollar company that was a vendor to a large international billion-dollar corporation. He shared that there were no contracts between them and that everything was done on a handshake and had been done that way for decades. I was blown away by that story. Their word was their bond. How differently and carefully would you choose your words if you treated them as if they were a contract between you and another human being?