Are you willing to put personal integrity above a promise to another?
This is a question that often comes up with my coaching clients.
How many times in life do you find that you’ve made a commitment, or a promise, that you later find doesn’t sit comfortably? Or, maybe, even turns out to be an unsustainable situation?
Perhaps you’ve promised to keep a secret, that now feels inappropriate?
Maybe you’ve committed to a relationship, where time has shown that you’re not as compatible as you first thought?
Have you discovered that the dream job you’ve worked so hard to get compromises your personal ethics in some way?
We make our decisions in life based on the best information we have available to us in the moment. But sometimes, experience and the passing of time, reveals more information, additional facts, or simply an alternative perspective.
Doing the right thing isn’t always easy!
When we lost our lead mare, Zahra, a friend offered to let her horse, Philly, join our equine facilitated learning team. We needed nurturing female energy in the herd and, for personal reasons, Helen needed to find a new home for Philly.
It seemed like the answer to everyone’s needs and, after spending some time with Philly, I promised Helen that she would have a home for life with me. It was a promise I was totally committed to, believing it to be the right decision for Helen, Philly, the rest of my herd and for Glint’s clients.
Initially, things went swimmingly and Philly quickly settled into her new role. However, over the following weeks, little chinks started to appear and relationships in the herd began to deteriorate. This, in turn, started to impact upon our work.
Fast forward another 3 months and I found myself regularly waking up in the middle of the night, stressing about the commitment I made to Helen and Philly. I now knew that our lovely girl wasn’t a good fit for the herd, but a promise is a promise!
Or is it?
Yes, I promised her a home for life. But what is the point of that home if it’s making her and the rest of the herd unhappy? Keeping my promise was causing me to compromise my fundamental belief that relationships should support the wellbeing of all involved, whether human, equine, canine……
By standing by the promise, I would be compromising my personal integrity.
Some promises must, importantly, be broken, when the aforementioned experience and passing of time, reveals that maintaining the promise would be damaging to the parties involved.
Doing the right thing for Philly and the herd was simple, but that didn’t make it easy! Yes, it required me to break my promise, but, even more difficult was plucking up the courage to have the tricky conversation about her future, with my friend.
I felt that I was letting Helen down. However, I would be going against my personal integrity and letting myself down, if I didn’t do the right thing for the horses. They needed me to do the difficult thing, because they can’t do it themselves.
Being true to yourself
I’ve now had that difficult conversation and can tell you that being true to myself has freed me to do the right thing by Philly and my team, by finding her a lovely new home.
Sometimes we prevaricate over difficult decisions for fear of upsetting someone – a friend, family member, partner, employer….
But, more often than not, the situation that was causing us internal conflict simply required us to put personal integrity first, because, if that original promise, or commitment turns out to be wrong for one person, it’s probably wrong for all involved. So, if you’re losing sleep over a promise made, consider whether breaking that promise might actually be the right thing for everyone….. even if they can’t see it yet!
And, if you need support to work through it, you know where to get hold of your friendly, professional coach.