The language of commitment. Choose wisely

Integrity means one, or whole, to hold its shape. To be in integrity is to be whole, to not violate the uniqueness of being. To speak with integrity is to speak with words that align and match action, choice and behaviour. Our inner values are reflected in our outer actions.

The language of integrity is nuanced, as it should be. Words are transmitters. They can and do change culture. Precision with words prevents confusion and ambiguity.

Language is complex, as language cannot be separated from context.

When we speak, we must respect the other by defining the context of our words and meaning. And we must adjust our speaking to meet the capacity and worldview of those with whom we speak. 

Too many people find themselves having the right conversation in the wrong context.

Which means they are having the wrong conversation. When others cannot understand our words and the context of what we speak, we might as well speak into a vacuum.

Being fluent in the language of commitment and accountability is a rare experience.

Yet is it one that can be cultivated, beginning with how we speak to ourselves.

All the work I teach and facilitate in Syntropic World is alive and emergent. During one of the Dare to Care Workshops last year, the hierarchical language of commitment emerged for the first time.

Wish  – to desire or strive for. A wish needs action and commitment. I wish I were fitter is different from I commit to my fitness three times a week and I keep my commitment.

A long time ago, most of what I thought were commitments I made to myself were wishes. I had a very long list of wishes. The list length was overwhelming and exhausted me before I got out of bed each morning. Because I confused my wishes for commitments, I was also lying to myself. I will do this as a statement made to myself, yet held without commitment, is a form of self-deception.

When our self-deceptions are abundant, our self-worth and self-trust fly out of the window. Our integrity bank account is deep in the red. As a result, I am not reliable to myself or others.

Recognising this self-deceptive pattern, I threw out the list and started with one commitment I knew I would keep. I had to build my personal integrity by keeping my word to myself first and foremost.

This took some time.

Now I catch myself stating a wish as a promise. No, Christine, this is still a wish. You still need to fully commit to action around this.

This is to be in integrity to self.

Wishes, by their nature, are easy to make and plentiful. 


Promise – assure beforehand, afford reason to expect. The future is held in a promise.

A promise is made to a future action. I promise I will do this. Promises are advances on wishes, yet they are still not of the calibre and import of a commitment.

I promise I will be there on time is different from I commit to being there on time.

The smaller magnitude of a promise compared with a commitment allows an escape hatch. As with a commitment, when I make a promise to another, including myself, and the promise is accepted, both parties are now responsible for the integrity of the promise.

I promise to complete the report by Tuesday at noon so you can do your work on it. 

Both the promisee and the acceptor are now responsible for the promise.

If the report is not complete by noon on Tuesday and the acceptor of the promise ignores the broken promise, they are equally guilty to the effect of the broken promise. People get away with their broken promises because the people to whom the promise was made let this happen. This is how we build cultures missing accountability and responsibility – by agreement. 

Similarly, building cultures of commitment requires promises and commitments to be taken seriously by both the promisee and the receiver. We hold each other accountable, knowing that when someone makes a promise voluntarily, without coercion, they have chosen it.


Commitment – com-with together. To unite, and bring together towards a mission.

Making a commitment is a higher order than a promise. There is a unification, even if that unification is to ourselves. 

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy,

the chance to draw back,

always ineffectiveness.

Concerning acts of initiative (and creation)

there is one elementary truth,

the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:

That the moment one definitely commits oneself then Providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.

A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour

all manner of unforeseen incidents

and meetings

and material assistance which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!”

William Hutchinson Murray (1913-1996), from his 1951 book The Scottish Himalayan Expedition. 

A commitment is all in. 


Vow – a promise to the sacred, be that the sacred within us, and/or the sacred around us. In our vow is a sacrifice.  

When I make a vow, I make an invisible knot with everything held in the vow. A vow is a declaration to Universe.

Traditional marriage ceremonies are made with vows. Making a vow in marriage is optional. If you have made a vow and then break the vow, there is a price to pay at the level of the sacred. No one escapes this. 

Sacrifice – to make sacred. To give up something for a larger purpose, cause or another. Something becomes more important than elements of our previous existence. For many, becoming a parent spontaneously creates willing sacrifice.

Within the word devote lives the same etymological root as vow. Dedicate by vow, sacrifice oneself, and promise solemnly.

To devote is an inward act and decision. 

To dedicate is an action taken outward towards another or an entity.

To consecrate – to make or declare sacred. To consecrate ground is to have a relationship with it that becomes sacred.

The words that live under the canopy of vows all reside in the sacred. They speak to a higher meaning and purpose than our human constructs can measure.

Therefore, when we evoke the sacred, we are also inviting in sacred responsibility. 


The hierarchy of commitment are words chosen by a person to themselves, others and life.

The word Covenant – a mutual compact to do something, a contract. To come together and unite – might be the container in which we live. It is a sacred statement about why we do something, including our life. provides the details on how we live the covenant day to day.


Many of these words evoke religious elements, fragments woven into our culture and worldview. 

I love sacred words as a non-religious person, honouring their Source etymology before they were appropriated by religion. 

The sacred and spiritual are the mystery, the Source of Beauty and awe. When we lose our connection with the sacred, we lose connection to life that has meaning transcending the day-to-day. 

Our addiction to knowing everything about how everything works keeps us in a small world of worker creatures, toiling at the coal face, disconnected from the unfolding dance of life and the sacred. 

To look up at the stars or down into the depths of the ocean is to be reduced to awe at existence itself. That liminal space between us and awe is the realm of the sacred.

When we make a vow, we make it to the unknown mystery, to our life and its Pattern Integrity. A vow transcends commitment. It lives in the realm of the sacred.

Vows should rarely be made; when we make a vow, we might know what we are doing. Yet we are seldom taught the energetic threading that lives in a vow. The ties are at the level of the sacred and mysterious. To break a vow is to break our weave with the sacred.

If, in our life, we make one or two vows, that is enough.

A Covenant – is a mutual compact to do something, a contract. To come together and unite.

When I wrote the Covenant for Syntropic World in 2019, it came to me in a complete flow. I originally named it a Covenant, then wavered and changed it to a pledge. On realising that the language of the sacred is integral to Syntropic World, I changed it back to Covenant. You may read it here, sign it if you feel appropriate, and download it to remember.


Learning and practising the language of commitment increases our integrity with ourselves, others, and our lives.

Creating cultures where the language of commitment is practised with deliberate intent amplifies honesty, accountability and responsibility. 

Knowing we always have the power to choose which words to speak, from a wish to a vow, gives us agency and, with agency, responsibility.

As we travel up the hierarchy of commitment, our responsibility increases. This is your choice alone to accept the responsibility that comes with the promises, commitments and vows you make.

Choose wisely.