What’s in a Word?

I have blogged before about being on a couple of dating sites.  The rough times are, usually, signing up because you have to fill out a ton of questions so they can “find a fit match” for you.  I don’t care much for their tactics.  Most of the sites don’t do much to use your info to match you up.  For instance, I put I would like someone within 50 miles of home, so why does it match me with Illinois or Michigan people?  The fact is that, in my opinion, these sites just want to be able to give you hundreds (or more) people to choose from, whether they meet your qualifications or not.

I trust it more when I set up the search and do it myself.  However, as I said, you pretty well have to do some of this work so that, when you do send a message or a “wink” or whatever, the other person can call up your profile and see who’s asking about them.

Promises made online are, sometimes, “iffy”.

Well, today, I was looking at a “match” and this particular site shows a comparison between about 20 questions you have answered as has the match.  One of the questions caught my attention more now than when I answered it.  The question was:

Do you keep your word?

Always           Mostly              Not at all

Very Important         Somewhat Important             Not Important

That may not be it exactly, but the idea is there.  The question seems simple, but the ramifications are very interesting.  For instance, to be really honest, several years ago, before teaching, I would have answered “Mostly” and “Very Important” as I almost always kept my word and it was very important to me.  What I see now is that “very important” doesn’t go well with “mostly”.  So, it’s not important all the time, just most of the time if I keep my word?  Or, is it very important that I keep my word most of the time?

When I filled it out this time, I stated that I keep my word “Always” and it is “Very Important”.  I know I have forgotten a time or two to do something.  That is my stroke.  I do forget every once in awhile.  However, my efforts are to always keep my word and it is extremely important to me that people know that.  Things have changed for me.  Since my stroke, I no longer try to mostly keep my word or, even better, “technically” keep my word.  Have you ever seen that one?  That’s when you word things in such a way that you can “almost break” your word, but “technically” you didn’t.

For instance, if you will “try” very hard to do something and then you don’t, you can say, “I tried” and not be breaking your word.  The problem is that people usually figure that out eventually and quit listening to you.  I had that happen when my children were very little.  They asked me something and I said, “Maybe.”  My son began crying.  I stopped and asked him what was wrong.  He said, “Maybe means No.”  I looked at him and began thinking back.  He was right.  Most of the time (perhaps, all) when I said “maybe” I didn’t want to argue or fight and that put them off.  I stopped and thought, then said to them both, “Tell you what.  From now on, when I tell you ‘maybe’ I will tell you what will make it happen and what will make it not happen.  Then you will know.”  They were happy and I learned a great lesson:  Keep your word.

When I started teaching school, I would make specific promises to my students.  Then, I taught them that I would honor “the letter of the law” in my words.  Most of the time, I would do that to teach them to say what they mean and to mean what they say.

For example, I had a student ask me if she could write a problem on the board.  If I couldn’t solve it, could she not do her homework that day?  I said, yes, on one condition: that then if I could give her a simple task to do and she failed it, she would do double.  She agreed and began writing a long, detailed problem on the board.  The students watched me as I didn’t even look at the problem.  Finally, she finished.  I turned, looked at the problem, and said, “No, I can’t do that one.”  She was ecstatic.  I said, “Now, wait a minute.  The deal was that I get to give you a simple task to do.”  She said, “Sure.”  The students know enough to watch and learn here (I taught them well.).  I said, “Ok, you have two minutes to put your sweater on by yourself.”

She jumped up and put her sweater on and said, “I’m done.”  I said, looking at the clock, “I said ‘two minutes’, so let’s let the clock go.”  At the end of the two minutes, I said, “You didn’t put your sweater on all by yourself; we were all here with you.”  She was a bit deflated, but took it in stride.  The rest of the class understood the lesson and we continued on.

Keeping my word to them all the time meant that if I said something and they honestly did it, I had to keep my word.  I seldom got caught up in that, but it did happen.  What it did was to create a bond between me and those untrusting students.  They knew if Mr. Vannatter said it, it was true and was going to happen just that way.

I have tried hard to keep that promise to this day.  If I say something, I will do my very best to do it just that way.  Since the stroke, I have increased that by explaining what I will do and all so that, if there are any questions, they are asked and we take care of those concerns, too.

All of this went through my head between seeing that question and now.  It’s important to me and, I think, to others that I keep my word.  I also expect them to keep theirs; it’s only fair.

How do you feel about that ideal?

What is the very important thing you do or don’t do?



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  • Debra Kristi  On April 5, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    I’m sorry, but I laughed out loud when you mentioned your child breaking into tears when you said maybe because the exact same thing happened to us. My husband hates to commit because of his job. He doesn’t know what factors might come into play that will effect him being able to follow through on the kids request. As a result we hear maybe a lot around here. We’ve all come to think of maybe as an automatic NO, even if he doesn’t want to hear that. I empathize with your son, totally get it.

    I take my word very seriously so if I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it. My son is always trying to get a promise out of me. Many times it’s for something I may not necessarily agree with so I find myself doing a fancy tongue dance trying to find the right way to word things to keep him even tempered and understanding about the situation. Sorry for writing a book in the comment.


  • John w Howell  On April 4, 2013 at 9:04 am

    Thoughtful post. I believe most people try to keep their word. We have all met those who quickly give up this principle if it becomes a matter of self service. The best we can do is try hard to keep integrity. I like the idea of doing so when no one is watching. Thanks for the reminder. – John


  • thehappyhugger  On April 4, 2013 at 3:34 am

    Keeping my word is important to me as well as having my family know that they can rely on me.


  • Larry  On April 4, 2013 at 12:42 am

    My initial response is integrity and trustworthiness. To live my life with integrity and trustworthiness. Integrity may be an aspirational pursuit because I am a flawed person and make mistakes, but it is a characteristic I strive to achieve. I think I’m consistently pretty good on the trustworthiness scale.

    This is good. I’ll keep thinking about this!


  • behindthemaskofabuse  On April 3, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    pay my bills on time, but further, i’m OCD about it, i have to pay them on the day they come in…lol My “T” challenged me once to wait a couple days or a week, wholly crap that was hard for me, i think i might have met her challenge once. she said it’s a control thing…sigh.

    at least i pay them on time, and if i were to owe anyone money they are sure to be paid back and quickly, not that have owed anyone…


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