The Coach is In…

Be Impeccable With Your Word

Impeccability means, “without sin.” It comes from the Latin, pecatus which means “sin.” The “im” means without. For purposes here we will use some Toltec wisdom and define “sin” as anything we feel or believe that goes against ourselves.

Over the weekend, I read the transcript of President Trump’s State of the Union address he delivered to Congress on February 7. Then I reviewed the New York Times fact checking of the same speech. It was stunning to see the number of things that were false or misleading versus the number of things that were true.

The same day I happened upon a picture of former Senator Dick Lugar and Congressman Lee Hamilton advertising the scholarship for future leaders they were working on/offering. I’ve had occasion to speak to both legislators; Congressman Hamilton several times while I was in college, and Senator Lugar when he was an active Senator. I found myself smiling as I reminisced about those interactions. I always found both gentlemen thoughtful, intelligent, and willing to listen. They always carried themselves in a humble way. They were/are men of high integrity with a high degree of motivation to serve. (As an aside, I have also had conversations with former Senator Evan Bayh during his political career. I found him to have similar qualities.) I miss these qualities in our political arena.

At that point I had a small epiphany about why I had never spent a lot of time utilizing a fact checker – because I didn’t need to. It’s not that earlier politicians were completely trustworthy (e.g. think Nixon re: Watergate, Johnson re: Vietnam, Clinton), but I do believe we had more politicians who were willing to work the solution to a problem, rather than working just the problem. We had more politicians who demonstrated their interest in the common good; they understood their role under “We the people…” We had more people who spoke the truth, or so it seemed to me.  (It would be interesting to do an empirical study to see if we were more trustworthy with what we said forty years ago or today.  Another day.)

In his book, The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz discusses the four most important ‘agreements’ we can have with ourselves and others. The first is – be impeccable with your word. He says:

“The first agreement is the most important one and the most difficult to honor.” He goes on to say, “Your word is the power that you have to create. Your word is the gift that comes directly from God. The gospel of John in the Bible, speaking of the creation of the universe, says, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.” Through the word you express your creative power. It is through the word that you manifest everything. Regardless of what language you speak your intent manifests through the word. What you dream, what you feel, and what you really are will all be manifested through the word.”

“The word is not just a sound or a written symbol. The word is a force; it is the power you have to express and communicate, to think, and thereby to create the events in your life…The word is the most powerful tool you have as a human; it is the tool of magic. But like a sword with two edges, your word can create the most beautiful dream, or your word can destroy everything around you.  One edge is the misuse of the word, which creates a living hell. The other edge is the impeccability of the word, which will only create beauty, love, and heaven on earth.”  (The Four Agreements pg. 26)

The concept of impeccability also extends to the actions that come from those words. Are they in alignment? The integration of your impeccability will determine a lot about what you create. It is why Ruiz considers ‘honoring’ this agreement as the most difficult. I agree with him.

Moving back to our context, I believe the evolution of our society, and the compression of the news cycle, and social media, have made us more aware of the ‘misdeeds’ of our leaders, and it has helped foster the ‘reaction’ to people, ideas, events, at the sacrifice of a more rational ability to ‘respond’ to people, ideas, and events. We are more interested in speaking than we are in listening to understand.

Our ‘evolution’ has created the opportunity (some would say the need) for ‘fact checkers’ to keep people honest. Do you find it ironic that at a time when our society has the most connectivity and opportunity to ‘find out’ about the misdeeds of others is also the time we have more organizations to check what we are being told to determine its truth? Are we really ‘less impeccable’ or is there simply more ways that the impeccability of someone can be checked? Perhaps it is both.

Perhaps it is also the evidence of my age, but at the top of my list of qualities I want from myself, from my friends, children, leaders is that what they say and what they do are in alignment. Is this unrealistic? Perhaps 100% of the time is too high, but I would like to think it is achievable. Otherwise, where does an erosion in impeccability take us? What does 60% of the time look like; 40%?

Senator Bayh told me four years ago that he left public service because he could no longer get anything done. Representatives were more interested in protecting their ideology than they were solving the serious problems of our nation. Someone in 2016 persuaded him to run again for the Senate and he was soundly defeated. Apparently, the character of a candidate is not as important as it once was.

As a reminder, I go back to Ruiz’s statement about our word, “It is through the word that you manifest everything.” I pause and reread, “It is through the word that you manifest everything.” I don’t often think about how my words manifest. It begs the question for me of what am I and others creating? Do you give energy to others and yourself with your words, or take it away? Are you a positive influence? Do you understand the connection and the power of your words?

We often get the behavior we tolerate, in ourselves and in others. I believe it is time to expect more. To call ourselves, those around us, and those that lead us to a higher standard of impeccability. In the end what we get depends on what we want…from and for ourselves…from and for our children, from and for our nation.

To a better you… 


P.S. Fact checkers.org has been around 15 years. This is their mission. “We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases. Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.” They are a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.