My word is my bond: “Dictum Meum Pactum!”

Meaning, that by just giving my word you can be assured that the promise of action I have just made will be kept.

Originating from the London Stock Exchange since the early 1800s where financial bargains and trades were made with no written pledges, no documents, and no contracts. Reputation was collateral in 19th Century England. Trust was built up and your bank of trust guaranteed you trading opportunities.

Sometimes, a nod of the head — like auctioneer accepts from the winning bidder or a handshake can signify a similar transaction — but the paperwork nearly always follows with a contract of sale.

Almost everything these days is governed by paperwork and by contract. Your telephone, your electricity supply and your marriage are all governed by contract. Your work, your health service — everything tied up with paper — and red tape.

One common denominator here is that contracts/promises can be broken — by either side — the other party then sues for breach of contract without too much damage to personal reputation and a “misunderstanding on your credit score.”

Does the act of promising hold up to scrutiny in our daily lives anymore without the almost inevitable back up of a contract?

Governments promise us all things, and when they fail to deliver well enough, we fail to re-elect them. Does the fact that they are elected enter us into a contract with them?

When you lend a friend some money is one example I can think of where reputation comes into play — most of us do not get bitten more than once on that score.

Handfasting is another occasion where the participants words are their bond — as there is no contract to back it up and why they are not considered equal to marriage unless they are accompanied by a civil contract.

Being a godparent is another relationship that is based on promise and trust.

So is blogging as part of a team like we do here — we are all trusted to write what we can when we can — one side of the bargain is that we write; the other side is that we get published and enjoy the success of writing on this blog.

The other question about this that is bugging me is — was it breakdown in trust that destroyed the concept of my word is my bond and the contract was bought into place to cover that — or was it contracts and use of contracts that destroyed our sense of trust?

8 Comments

  1. I thank you for sharing this important topic, Nicola! I think what’s missing here is a sense of honor and shame. There’s no upside to keeping your word any longer because the threat to your reputation is now meaningless.

    Shame is something people no longer bother to consider when “doing the wrong thing” rises. It’s all about “The Me” now — and if you interfere with that, you will be punished — contract or no contract! SMILE!

    1. I think you have it David ……………. there are very few with a sense of honour any more – and even less with a sense of shame,. Think there might be a follow up on that one – like where did we loose our sense of honour and shame. It certainly did not vanish in an instant it has been sliding away and eroding bit by bit.

      1. I think the explosion of the modern world of interconnectivity has a lot to do with the degradation. There used to be only two major TV networks: NBC and CBS. Then, later, ABC was founded. You had to be a superstar talent to even get a shot at getting on the air — and few people did.

        Now we have 300 networks — all desperate for programming — and we get Honey Boo Boo and Hoarders instead of Lucille Ball and Walter Cronkite.

        It’s the same with the law — you use to have lawyers who were careful to only take cases they knew they could win — now too many lawyers are simply “yes men” who take any case to court in search of a quick payout settlement.

        In schools — we now have Homeschooling and Charter Schools and online classes — you can shop your wishes and break your promises and nobody cares because there’s no punishment for failing. You just start over again. You just move on to the next “opportunity” and forget the past no matter what you just promised.

        We used to have a lot of internship authors in GO INSIDE Magazine a decade ago. They were getting school credit for writing or they were writing to build up a resume and to get a good recommendation. They honored their deadlines. They delivered on their promises. Over the last five years or so all that changed, and that’s why I don’t accept many interns now. I don’t want to have to waste my time chasing them down to make them keep their word when there was never an intention of them keeping their word. It isn’t worth the effort any longer…

  2. I guess the main disconnect is when people started gaining more from dishonour than they did from honor. People used to do the honorable thing – trying to remember a reent example and failing badly.

  3. It’s such a shame that you can not go on people word anymore. I have noticed that over the years peoples bonds and ability to trust have been very low. I wish people had the ability to restore some honor to our society. Yes, there are still a few people who honor honor, but what about everyone else? We really need to reconnect.

  4. A very interesting topic & an enlightening discussion. 🙂 Good to see these days. Thank you.

    For myself, I feel that the problem is both a lack of honor on one side, and a lack of trust on the other. My mother and my maternal grandfather were honorable people. My father, on the other hand, was not. Many years of living with them proved that to me beyond doubt. So, I learned both. I made the decision that I wanted to be nothing like my father. However, he did give me valuable insight in how not to be. 🙂

    Once, a person’s “yes” meant yes, “no” meant no. These days, when you say either, the response invariably is: “are you sure?”, “do you promise?” and so on. That to me indicates a lack of trust and/or insecurity on the other’s part. So, if I say “I am sure” or “I promise” it’s doubtful I will be believe in any case. Lack of trust renders those phrases meaningless. My grandfather once said “Never make a promise you don’t intend to keep!” It took some time for me to understand the key word “intend”. People say “I promise” with such a blasé attitude, that it really means nothing any more. I learned a long time ago that a promise can be very difficult to keep, no matter how much one meant it. None of us are immune to forces beyond our control. So, I rarely make a promise, and if I do, I’ll usually add something like “if I can”. But I’ve made three promises in my life that I intended to keep until the grave! Unfortunately, I was unable to keep one. One I made to someone when I was 20, I have kept and will keep. I’m 58 now by the way. 🙂

    I believe that the word “intent” is crucial today. It seems to me that too many people are moving from “an intention to be honorable” or “intent to be honest” to “an intention to be dishonorable” or “intend to be dishonest”. Politicians today are a case in point. Though, as with all things, there are exceptions. The problem we have is figuring out who the exceptions are. 🙂

    The other problem today is, I think, that too many people have a binary view of just about everything. Good/evil, good/bad, yes/no, love/hate, friend/enemy, and so on. I’ve learned that nothing is ever that simple! There are always many, if not infinite, range of possibilities. However, there are usually a finite range of probabilities. If one is extremely lucky, there may only be two. So, a choice is not so difficult. Perhaps people simply became lazy in this respect. Whatever the reason, I see the extremist binary view becoming the norm again, unfortunately.

    I could go on, but I won’t! 😀 The above is my opinion, of course.

    I look forward to browsing this blog further.
    Paul.