I call it one of my sappy, girly movies. It’s a lovely story, with clever dialogue and some pretty decent acting. And although I may not remember all that many lines or scenes from seriously great films, I never forget the moment in the 1998 version of “Dangerous Beauty” when Marco stands up at Veronica’s trial…and, when nobody else stands with him (initially at least), he says to the Inquisitor: “Then I stand alone for Venice, and for this woman.”
These days, as a rule, there isn’t much of that going on. Not much chivalry, courage, integrity and honor. They do exist of course but they are not common, and perhaps never were.
But I have heard stories from family members now gone about these things in the ‘old days’. Like the meaning of a handshake, of one’s word, both in matters of trade and love. Like the meaning of promises made and sworn by with one’s heart…vows exchanged over the ‘breaking of bread’ or through a precious first kiss.
I remember hearing from my great uncle about the time he secured a significant bank loan without any collateral. When I laughed and asked how it was possible, his face hardened. “What do you mean how?” he answered in a thunderous voice. “I gave my word as a gentleman and I shook the banker’s hand!”. Imagine doing that today to the loan officer at Chase or Citibank.
Still, (and maybe I am too naive and idealistic) I insist that it is possible, and necessary, for us to resurrect this old-fashioned habit of taking pride in who we are, in being good for our words and handshakes and everything else.
Our currency should be one of honesty, courage and honor, should it not? Even though our judgments and choices can never be perfect, and even though we all make mistakes. Our words should have value, not just cleverness or beauty. We can not fix all the problems in the world, but we can make some things right. Or at least try. And when at times we are forced to delay or break our word, we should never allow it to happen before we have done everything in our power, truly and completely, without holding anything back, to prevent the delay or the breaking.
I see people today standing and especially arguing for various causes and principles. But I don’t see many people standing up to their words. I don’t see people really trying to or being all that concerned. What I do see are excuses…complicated and ultimately empty, pointless stories.
It’s very sad.
And then I think of that wonderful quote from The Little Prince:
“People have forgotten this truth,” the fox said. “But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose.”
Yes, we are responsible for what we’ve ‘tamed’. Because we tame words, minds and hearts. And we are responsible…to ourselves, first and foremost.
It is not a sentence or a shackling…not even a duty. It is a mission of grace, a mission of the soul. It’s about respect. In the smallest things, as in the big ones, we should never forget to honor ourselves and others with truth, courage, kindness and genuine investment.
Imagine what life would be like if most people would be true to themselves and true to their word. If every time anyone said “I am here for you” or “I will stand with you”, or “I will do this”, we could actually trust it without needing a background check or collateral.
Imagine if we would be able to live our lives with less suspicion and fear, without looking over our shoulders ten times over, without expecting (and sadly finding) a betrayal and a lie at every step.
Imagine if we actually respected each other enough to live by our words not because of rules or fear of consequences, but because that is the only way to live honorably…because we valued our hearts and our light. Because we trusted in ourselves, and in good things.
Imagine if when someone would ask us “But why should I believe you?” we could answer “Because I gave my word”. And imagine that would actually have value, and be the only thing anyone would need to know.
Yes, we are responsible for what we have tamed. And what a privilege that is.