Yesterday I stopped in to a gas station to pick up a snack. As I waited in line I overheard the clerk say to a gentleman in the line ahead of me, “Go pump your gas and then come back and pay. If you say you’ll be back to pay, I trust you. That’s the way we still do things here.”
The man stared at the clerk in disbelief.
“I don’t need to pay first?” he asked.
“Nope,” the clerk said. “Just tell me you’ll be back to pay and we have an agreement.”
“You got it,” the man said as he walked out smiling.
There is power in an agreement. An agreement says, “I know your part in this deal, and you know mine. We have a basis of trust.”
There is power in agreements made in relationships as well. When we agree to do something, we must make sure we do what we say we’ll do because our agreements form the basis of our trust in one another. Failure to keep agreements creates untold relationship problems.
Consider the following email to me.
Dear Dr. David. My wife and I are both Christians and believe the marriage is forever. Unfortunately, we have found ourselves at a point in our relationship where we just cannot connect on anything and the demeaning, hurtful language between us has created a wall that seems impassable. We have fallen to arguing nearly daily over my wife not keeping her word. I am having a hard time conveying to my wife that integrity and honesty is paramount in our relationship and not doing simple things that we commit to one another, like dropping off important mail, cleaning up a mess in the house or other menial tasks, has created a rift between us. I have told her that I am having a hard time trusting what she says because so often when she tells me that she is going to do something, it doesn't get done. I feel this sense of bitterness and taken advantage of.
While we are only given a small glimpse of the problems in this marriage, we can clearly see the animosity developing. We can see that the husband sees his wife as failing to keep many of the agreements that have been made, and these failures lead to their constant arguing.
For the moment let’s assume that there are no other hidden issues—which may not be true. Let’s assume that this is truly what he says—a matter of integrity and honesty.
How do you feel when your mate agrees to do something, and then doesn’t do it? Does it make a difference if it is “something big,” or can it be nearly as hurtful if it is small, broken agreements?
Many marriage problems are caused by broken agreements. They may be monumental agreements concerning fidelity, or small agreements about coming home from work on time for dinner. They may be agreements to not tease your wife, or agreements to speak lovingly to your husband.
Agreements are especially important because they are the basis of dependability and predictability. If you don’t keep agreements you make with me, I don’t know if I can count on you. In fact, if even occasionally you fail to keep your agreements with me, I must live my life as if I can’t ever fully count on you. When it comes to agreements, either you keep them or you don’t.
Failing to keep agreements also leads to some level of chaos. Relationships are built on a series of agreements—about who will do what, when and where. Responsibilities are delegated, tasks are agreed upon and expectations are made based upon these agreements. Agreements are the basis of trust—a vital link in any relationship.
Keeping agreements is also a means of showing dignity to another. If you break your word, you show a lack of dignity to that other person. This lack of dignity tears away at the foundation of a relationship. God emphasized the importance of keeping agreements: “You shall be careful to perform what goes out from your lips, just as you have voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God, what you have promised” (Deuteronomy 23:23).
Here’s my question for you. How important do you believe agreements are in relationships? Are you a person who is dependable and predictable, or have you had problems keeping your word? Do you agree that failure to keep agreements can lead to the demise of a relationship? I’d love to hear from you.