Promises Are to Be Kept

Something You Forgot … Along the Way
A young man was taking a walk one day when he came on a shabbily-dressed little girl crouched by the side of the road, weeping as she clutched some broken pieces of pottery. Gently he asked her what the trouble was. It seemed that she was an only child whose only parent was seriously ill. She had borrowed a one-liter jar from the landlord and was on her way to buy milk when she dropped the jar and smashed it. She was crying in fear of a scolding.

Feeling sorry for her, the youth pulled out his wallet and checked it, but he was a poor scholar, and the wallet was empty. “Come back here tomorrow at the same time,” he told her. “I’ll give you the money for another jar of milk.”

He shook hands with her and went on his way.

The following day he received an urgent message from a friend: “A wealthy man is here, someone interested in sponsoring your work. He’s leaving in the afternoon, so come right away.” Yet going to meet the rich man would have meant breaking his promise to the little girl. The young man quickly sent this reply: “I have important business today. I apologize for the inconvenience, but I must ask him to return another day.” And he kept his promise to the child.

The would-be benefactor at first took offense, but on hearing what had kept the scholar, he was thoroughly impressed and became his most ardent supporter.

Rich people can be touchy and difficult to deal with. They tend to think that their money entitles them to have their way in everything. Even those who are not rich will all too often break any promise and bend any principle for the sake of money, becoming its slaves.

The Chinese character for “making money” is composed of elements that can be read “trusted person.” In other words, money comes to those who are worthy of trust. The basis of trust lies in keeping a promise regardless of its cost to oneself. Promises that cannot be kept should not be made. He who breaks a promise not only inconveniences others but inflicts damage on himself.

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