Our family is learning about dependability at the moment, with Character First (CF) . They define it as ‘fulfilling what I consented to do, even if it means unexpected sacrifice’; Mum simplifies it by putting it this way; ‘doing what I said I would do, even when it’s hard.’ It reminds me of Dr. Seuss’ books, Horton Hears a Who and Horton Hatches the Egg. Horton the elephant is quite a dependable creature, who will never ever give up on you. He sat on an egg for months on end, in the rain and cold snow, after making a promise to a cranky mother bird who wanted a rest; and when he made a friend – no matter how small that friend was – he walked for days and days in order to find him a safe place to live, despite the peril dangers.
OK, so Dr Seuss was a little bit dramatic when he wrote about Horton, but Horton’s motto is one we could all take to heart:
I said what I meant and I meant what I said, and an elephant’s faithful 100%!”
“I will keep my word” is Character First’s first key point, or “I-Will”, for dependability. Recently I have been thinking a lot about keeping my word. Every ‘yes I will’ ultimately, is a promise. Although I mightn’t say, “I promise to…” by telling others I will do something, I am giving my word, and it is important to keep it. Keeping my promise is important because after having promised to do something, others build their plans around me, or at least have the freedom to; keeping my word is going to go a long way towards building my reputation and whether others have the trust to ‘leave it to me’. ‘Fulfilling what I consented to do’ is about obedience, my reputation and being trustworthy.
Jesus tells us to be so very careful about what we promise to others. To do that, attentiveness becomes really important. Attentiveness is ‘showing the worth of a person by giving them my full concentration’ as Character First puts it so well. If my Mum walks into our family room and asks me to do something, and I don’t really stop to listen yet automatically reply with a ‘yes Mum’ – I am not being attentive. When I fail to listen fully – with ears and eyes – I am often not processing what she said and I easily forget her instructions. By listening properly I can first of all, obey; I also might realise I know something she doesn’t or discover we have a conflicting plan, which I can then talk to her about. Giving my full attention to the person I’m talking to helps me to fully process what that will require. This connects with dependability because if I don’t discuss those things with her then it hinders me from being reliable.
Once I have given my attention to Mum (or whoever) and properly registered that I’ve been asked to do something, I’ve found the easiest way to keep my word is to write that commitment in my diary planner. In my planner I write my school schedule for the day, along with what I want to do in the afternoon. When I have any other commitment, I jot it down. For example, I’m scheduled to play the piano for Church in a few months’ time – I wrote it in there, even though it is several months ahead and I doubt I would forget about it. Mum asked me to phone someone and since the phone line was busy at the time, I wrote that job down in my diary for later on, though I’ve found that if I can go and do it then and there, that’s even better; it frees up one extra spot in my head! I look at my diary throughout my day and into my free time, so it serves as the perfect reminder. Checking it off once I’ve done it is quite motivating too!
Maybe a diary doesn’t work for you. Perhaps you could write A4 reminders on the fridge or stick post-it notes to the mirror. My point is, even if I process that I have been asked to do something, by having a reminder outside of my brain it eases the pressure of forgetting to actually do it!
I’m learning that for me to show dependability, I need to start with giving my full attention to the person at hand, so that I can register what I need to do, and then remember to go and do what I’ve been asked – one hundred percent!