Last July, my wife requested that we meet about our finances before the end of summer. I wasn’t particularly inspired — I don’t like to talk about finances because crunching numbers and talking investment were never my strong suit. But September was a couple of months away, so I said yes to appease her.
The end of the summer came and went, and neither of us brought up the conversation. I didn’t bring it up because I didn’t want to talk about it, but she didn’t bring it up because she knew it was a lost cause. This wasn’t the first time I had agreed to talk about finances and conveniently forgotten about it.
In early October, guilt got the better of me, and I decided to buy the book Investing for Dummies, hoping it would make me more interested in discussing finances. When it arrived in the mail, my wife asked when I was going to read it.
Without thinking, I replied, “Before the end of the year.”
“Great,” she said, sounding thoroughly unconvinced, and the next day, I put it in the back seat of my car where it sat until December.
As 2014 approached, I became uncomfortably aware that the book was still sitting in my back seat, where it had become a glaring symbol of my lack of integrity. It was hard to admit to myself, but I began to realize that every time I agreed to discuss the finances with my wife and put it off, I was lying to her. That’s strong language, but it was accurate. I had no intention of following through with my commitment, but it was easier to make an empty promise than have to face my ignorance about one of the most important areas of our marriage.
I didn’t want to keep undermining her trust, and I decided to follow through on my promise to read the book before 2014. So the day after Christmas, I finally opened the book for the first time and realized it was almost 400 pages long. I panicked: We were going out of town the next day. I didn’t have time to read 80 pages a day.
She’ll understand if you can’t do it, I thought, but then a verse shot into my mind: “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him” (Luke 14:28-29).
Stop making a joke out of your word, I said to myself. You should’ve counted the cost, but you didn’t, and now, if your word is going to mean anything, you’ve got to follow through. And with that thought in mind, I started reading.
The next six days were exhausting. All day, every day, I was grasping for opportunities to read the book. I stayed up late; I read with my toddlers climbing on me; I slipped away from conversations with friends to get a couple of pages in. When I got tired of reading, I told myself, Don’t quit; you’ve got to make sure your word means something. And with that determination, I kept plugging away until finally, at 7:23 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, I finished reading the book just before it was time to get dressed to go out with my wife. I put the book down, ran upstairs, and while I got dressed, I eagerly engaged her in an informed discussion about investing. Even though it wasn’t the best time to talk money, I could tell it meant a lot that I had kept my word.
If our word is going to mean anything, then we can’t afford to go around making commitments we don’t intend to keep. If our voicemail message says we will call people back, then we should call them back. If we say, “I’ll pray for you,” it should be more than a religious way of ending a conversation. If we agree to work eight hours a day at our jobs, that should not include spending several hours a month playing Angry Birds. If we know we’re not going to follow through with our New Year’s resolutions, then we shouldn’t make them.
We’ve all got weak spots where we tend to tell white lies and convince ourselves that we had the best of intentions. It’s time to identify those areas and stop giving ourselves permission to ignore our commitments. This year, before we say we’re going to do something, let’s count the cost, decide whether we’re actually capable of following through, and then “let [our] ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and [our] ‘No,’ ‘No’” (Matthew 5:37, NKJV). Let’s resolve to get our integrity back in 2014.