Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Thinking About the Importance of Words

More Straight Talk

I don’t know about you, but as I grow older, I seem to have a harder time falling asleep at night, but not a hard time at all taking that little nap in the middle of the day. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t get tired later at night, its just that I don’t fall asleep as easily.

Tonight is just one of those nights when a million different words, terms or discussions seem to bounce around in my head, so if you unfortunately are the victim of my ramblings of this evening, I’ll apologize in advance that they might bore you.

This evening there are two words that just seem to be running around in my mind. Maybe they come due to some of the conversations I’ve had with others over the holiday or during this weekend. I don’t really have a reason for why they have any specific connection or purpose.

The first of those two words is responsibility. When I think about that word, I think about my own life first. Was I always a responsible person? I guess I’d have to think about how that relates to how I carried out my obligations to be accountable to others, both contractually and personally.

I’ll always remember one of my mom’s favorite phrases: “Steven, make sure you use your head for something other than a hat rack.” Even as that phrase of hers bounces around in my head, I laugh, because I can just visualize her sitting there at the kitchen table and uttering those words.

Contractually, I’ve always kept my word. My dad, even in his final days, would always remind me that my “word” was what others would judge me by, because once it was given, it then was totally my responsibility to make good on it. “Don’t ever go back on it or fail to live up to those commitments you give your word on.”

It seems like a simple philosophy, but if we had more people adhere to it, wouldn’t this be a better place? Have we made walking away from one’s responsibilities a little too easy? Who do we have to blame for that but ourselves? How many times do we hear ads on TV, radio or across the internet discussing the ease of bankruptcy while protecting some of your most valued assets?

Even today, we hear politicians promising college-aged students that they would commit to wiping out most or all of their student loans. How do you think that makes the man or woman who paid theirs and took their responsibilities seriously and didn’t look for a free ride feel to hear this?

Or what about the numbers of children being born into single parent households? That surely is a responsibility which cannot be taken lightly. It certainly is one for which society pays the bill, because someone has to.

The second word, one which is as important as any I know and related to the first one, is integrity. It doesn’t have as many letters as the first one but is equally important. In some dictionaries, one might find it defined as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles, moral uprightness.” A much simpler definition I’ve seen simply says, “doing the right thing, even when no one is there to see it being done.”

Once again, we see a correlation between being responsible and adhering to strong ethical values. When a society itself begins to drift away from these values, alarm bells should be sounding across the board.

The writer Robert Brault was once quoted as saying, “You do not wake up one morning a bad person. It happens by a thousand tiny surrenders of self-respect to self-interest.”

All of us can be tempted on a daily basis to take the easy path, rather than that which will call on us to do what is right. It becomes easier each time we do it. When the lies or the shortcuts become the norm, it sets us on a path which will impact who we are as a person, our reputation and the respect others have of us.

I’ve had the privilege of being around many men and women during my lifetime who exemplify the wonderful traits which we find in the definitions of these two incredibly significant words in our vocabulary – men and women who have made a difference in who we are as a people because of their adherence to those two words. Sometimes we take for granted the significance those words hold within our society and in the foundations of what make our nation and its people who we are.

Yes, we all may have slipped from time to time, but as a society, we seem to recognize those shortcomings and have had the courage to make important corrections and maintain the moral compass in which we can find pride. 

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