As a spiritual concept, integrity is foundational. Integrity is alignment of truth. Yet, because the future is never 100% predictable, integrity is also a risk – a risk that the future may be different than anticipated.
Living on an island alone, integrity is much easier to honor and keep. However, living in a world with others requires that personal integrity be risked. In interrelating with others, the parameters of the risk are often established through agreements. The two interact, define the particulars, and reach an agreement. If the particulars are met, integrity is maintained. With the emergence of integrity, the basis for trust is established between the two. Though, if the agreement isn’t kept, then trust is strained and perhaps lost. Thus, for integrity to exist, agreements need be met.
Making agreements is common, yet often knowing what constitutes a great agreement is not as well understood.
Getting to Common Ground: Agreement, Defined
An agreement is:
- A clear verbal or written statement of intention and action which
- Brings together intention with follow-through or action,
- Connects thought with behavior,
- Clearly and concisely,
- Often defines a time component,
- And can have stated consequences if action is not completed.
An agreement can be made between two individuals or a group of individuals. When an agreement is made, there is clarity about what action to take and by when if time is relevant. An agreement is made to help be clear about what is needed to happen, why and when. Agreements help identify methods of interaction and build trust between individuals.
When an agreement is made, the three possible outcomes are:
- The agreement is kept — all who make the agreement do what is asked within the time if stated.
- The agreement is broken — one or more individuals do not do or complete what is asked within the time stated.
- The agreement is shifted — one or more individuals ask for a part or the entire agreement to be changed prior to any stated time. When an agreement is shifted, usually a new agreement is made.
Agreements are always made within some aspect of the unknown.
Future predictions are never 100% accurate. While the intention which initiates the agreement can be clear, the intention is held within the unknown, within the flow of the infinite and the eternal. Thus, while it is possible to feel confident about intention, the agreement extends into the future where it is not possible to anticipate everything that might or might not happen. Therefore, agreements, made through intention, occur within the consequences from the unexpected. In view of the unexpected, integrity shows in how you deal with the consequences of the agreement. This is true whether you keep, break or shift the agreement.
The form of the agreement is clear intention stated with clear parameters.
Or at least as clear as possible within what is known when the agreement is made. When an agreement is kept, the action is completed within any stated time frame. When time is included, time in the agreement is as clearly defined as possible. For example, “by Friday” can have different meanings to different people. Anything from any time on Thursday to midnight Friday are in keeping with “by Friday.” If you mean by 10am Pacific Friday, then make that part of the agreement.
When the unexpected shows up, ask to shift the agreement before time is up.
Because the unexpected can make keeping an agreement difficult or because due to time the movement of time a different outcome or action is desired, it is possible to ask to shift the agreement before the stated time frame. To make this shift, reach out to whoever is involved in the agreement, explain your perspective and make your request. The parties involved respond according to their situation. Often when a request to shift is made, the ensuing discussion will involve the consequences of not keeping the original agreement or shifting to a new agreement. This is all good! A shift allows all concerned to better adapt to the unexpected, sharpen intention, and often increases the likelihood that the agreement will be kept.
Breaking an agreement is not doing what was agreed within the time agreed upon. When an agreement is broken, there are consequences for the parties of the agreement. If you have not kept an agreement, you still have choice. You can choose not to attend to the consequences by ignoring or denying the unkept agreement. There is no integrity in this choice. Instead you can choose to attend to the consequences by going to the parties involved, acknowledging the broken agreement and asking what the consequences where for not following through. After hearing about the consequences, you ask what you can do to help relieve the consequences. This isn’t simply about apologizing, this is about showing up and being willing to be responsible for and deal with whatever came about because you did not keep your agreement.
Energetically, the willingness to take care of what you did not do reflects high integrity.
When an agreement is broken, the energy of the agreement becomes a weight upon your energetic field. Ignoring a broken agreement doesn’t make this weight go away. When you are responsible for the broken agreement, you are attending to the weight and letting this burden go. You are also acknowledging the importance of the connection with the parties of the agreement. Attending to the consequences helps mend the sense of trust that is often damaged when an agreement is broken. Within a community, broken agreements interfere with the sense of connection and trust, eroding the sense of community. Keeping an agreement and being willing to attend to the consequences of a broken agreement, helps reinforce your sense of self-trust and personal commitment. Showing up for yourself demonstrates to others your sense of integrity and increases their willingness to trust you.
Remember, agreements always ask you to risk the outcome of the unknown.
Only making agreements you are absolutely sure you can keep is shallow and lacks in courage, vulnerability, and integrity. Integrity is not about perfection of action rather begins with awareness of harmony within. Inner harmony is born from vulnerability and from acknowledgment of truth. Within the context of an agreement, joy flows to and from integrity. When you break an agreement, you are out of harmony with self and Other. When you keep or attend to an agreement, you are moving within the balance and truth of self.
A lack of clarity in the creation phase of the agreement is the main reason why agreements fail.
The purpose of this initial phase of the agreement is to clarify intention and desired outcome and determine what will meet the intention and outcome. Be as clear as possible in the moment. And if clarity or intention shift, then shift the agreement in a timely manner. The ability to maintain full responsibility helps clarify an agreement and increase not only its success but will help trust develop between all parties to the agreement.
How To Make Agreements
Follow these steps in making and keeping agreements:
- When you make an agreement, be clear about what is being asked of you and the time frame. Be clear about what you are requesting of the other.
- Only agree if you feel that the agreement meets with your intentions and you can do what is asked in a timely manner. Otherwise, re-negotiate until the agreement works for all.
- If you feel you will not be able to keep the agreement as presented, ask for a shift.
- Complete all agreements on time as best you can.
- When life shifts and you feel you can’t keep an agreement, ask to make a shift.
- When life really shifts and you don’t keep an agreement, show up and be responsible for the consequences.
- Remember integrity is not about keeping all agreements, integrity is about responsibility for agreements. You are not an accurate forecaster of the future; give yourself a break!
- When you are not sure, ask for help!