Penner: Words matter

Have you ever been pleasantly surprised when an anticipated event seemed to be fraught with conflict or other form of danger, yet your fears were never justified? I was.

More than two weeks ago, I entered the Eisenhower airport terminal in Wichita, KS, to board a Delta flight to Minneapolis for a very brief trip. Not knowing what to expect, considering the ongoing pandemic and the airline’s firm policy of mandatory compliance to wearing a mask, I proceeded with caution.

While entering the premises, the message given by the airport authority in all locations and all airlines is very simple; “all passengers must wear a face mask. Anyone who refuses to comply will not be allowed to board and will be escorted from the premises.”

Every passenger was compliant with the face mask mandate. There were no arguments, no complaining nor refusing to comply. Passing security and boarding was as peaceful as a walk in the park.

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Lately, I am aware of other seemingly minor observations in human behavior which are actually noteworthy. For instance, words matter. Every well-chosen or poorly-chosen word we utter matters.

Being human and prone to making both good and poor word choices, we often speak before considering the meaning and implications of those thoughts. Speaking from experience, regret often follows a snarky, disrespectful remark.

Long ago, an incident (and subsequent regret) motivated yours truly to contact an individual regarding my remarks. Upon acceptance of my apology, the person assured me my remarks were not taken in the context of an insult. Instead, I received assurances that my desire to restore the relationship was deeply appreciated and welcomed.

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It has been said, people with good intentions make promises, but people with good character keep them.

Every promise we make, matters. Even the little promises we sometimes make in the heat of the moment, it matters as well. Yet we give little thought about whether we intend to fulfill them. What does that say about us, the promise makers?

“Eh, it’s just small talk. Everybody does it,” says the evasive Everyman.

But more than this, informal promises between people often fail because the one who makes a unilateral commitment believes it is conditional and not to be taken seriously.

Why then, do these promises generally come attached to another declaration? For instance, consider these familiar and famous last words;

“Trust me.”

“I am totally honest with you. You have my word.”

Or, “my word is my bond.”

Keeping a promise requires a commitment to fulfill an obligation, regardless of the cost.

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