We live in a time when people do not really have much interest in “keeping their word”.
Not so long ago a handshake was considered a valid legal agreement because it meant that you had “given your word”. Now, because we live in a time when there is no one reliable source of information that is always honest, no one really knows what is true. If you read the papers and listen to the news, you hear one thing one day, another the next. Nowhere is this more true than in terms of what we are told to eat or not eat or in the larger political arena.
If you give anyone or anything your “promise” you are making a binding contract with yourself to do as you have said you would. If you take that seriously, meaning that you will do whatever you can to make sure that you carry out your promises, ultimately, it will have great benefits in your life. People will know that you mean what you say, you do what you say you will do and you are as “good as your word” in that you are reliable, dependable and honest. In these times, that’s a lot.
If you adjust what you do, after the fact, thinking it doesn’t matter, but you do not go back to the situation or the party involved and say that you have to change your original agreement, you might get away with it, but you can’t do that too often or it erodes your reputation.
Integrity is being true to yourself, true to what you say, true to how you behave over time. If you do what is convenient instead of what you know is right, you will eventually pay a price.
I know, we live with this kind of behavior every day in every kind of situation. That’s one of the reasons the world is such a mess. People don’t listen to what they say, they don’t care what they say, they just talk. People don’t take a stand and back it up with their actions. They take a stand and then, when it’s difficult to remain steadfast in that position, they back away. They “adjust”, even if that adjustment flies in the face of all that they profess to believe.
The words that come out of your mouth cannot be taken back. If you value your word, if you tell the truth as you see it, you will think before you make a promise, particularly if it is one that involves other people and has larger consequences. The more care you give to what you say, they more people will listen when you do speak. And, the more your word carries with it the weight of responsibility, the more you have to take responsibility in how you use it.
We are in a time when people will say anything just to get their way. There are few consequences for “flip flopping” or for just plain lying, but that doesn’t mean that it works in life to behave that way. And, if you promise to do something that you can’t do, for any reason, and you do not go back to the person to whom you made the promise and fix that broken agreement, you will lose their trust, and rightly so. If you give away your own integrity because you don’t have a clear set of values to live by, or you don’t care how people see you from one day to the next, you have nothing. Without your own integrity, you are lost.
What does this have to do with singing? EVERYTHING. If you sing, you magnify what you are saying, and if you do not sing the lyrics with a sense of purpose and truth, your voice will not carry with it authentic authority and power. People truly respond to vocal sound that is coupled with depth of meaning. They experience the impact of that sound at a cellular level. If that were not true, great artists such as Luciano Pavarotti, singing an entire evening of music in Italian, would not have attracted half a million people to his Central Park Concerts. Many of those people were not opera fans and certainly most of them were not fluent in Italian, but there they were, listening to his amazing voice filled with conviction in his singing. It carried great emotional power in every phrase.
If you sing and you never look at your own voice as it extends out into the world in the other aspects of your life, you should. If you promise things lightly and never get around to doing them, if you say you will do something and you don’t, but then pay no attention to that, don’t be surprised if other people make promises to you that they don’t keep either. They find out soon enough that you don’t really care by observing your own behavior.
If you sing, take a look at what you are singing and understand it in the fullest sense of the words, what they are literally, what they mean, what they imply, what they would do out in the world if you were not singing, but living them in life. It matters.