Bound by my word

I’ve noticed that there are some ways that I seem to use my words differently than other people. I am literal, I am absolute, I tend to take things seriously. This impacts my life in an incredibly large number of ways, and one of those ways is in words and language and how I treat what I say.

Specifically, I am bound by my word in a way that I’ve noticed other people are not. I was having some goofy conversation with a friend of mine a while back, and he was doing something physically goofy as well. It was all very silly. At one point he said that he was done doing the goofy thing for the night, but then he did it more a few minutes later. And my first response was to think that he lied. It was not a big deal or anything, but still. A lie. But then he said that no no, it was not a lie. He had simply changed his mind, which is apparently a totally valid thing to do. I am trying very hard to respect that, and acknowledge that language is apparently fuzzy for other people.

However, it does not work that way for me. Language is rarely fuzzy (though sometimes language is unclear, and it bothers me when it is), and I mean what I say. Or at least, I had bloody well better mean what I say, because I am bound by it. I don’t need to say “I promise” or “I give you my word” in order to set my word more firmly and make it solid. It is simply always like that, by default. If I say that I am done with something for the night, then I am bound by that. My options are to be done for the night, or to make myself a liar. Changing my mind simply is not an option.

I mean, it could be an option. But it has to be put into the words I say. I would have to say “I think I am done with Thing” or “I am probably done with Thing” or maybe “unless something changes, I am done with Thing.” If I wrap my language around my decision not being certain, then I get to change my mind and my decision can be less-than-solid. If I don’t do that, though, then that’s it. If I do not make my words say there is an option to change my mind, then the option is not there. If I do not put an end-time on Thing, then there is no end-time. If I say “I am done with Thing” then I am done forever, because I did not give myself the option to change my mind, nor did I stipulate end conditions. Therefore there are no end conditions and instead it lasts forever.

I’ve started idly speculating where this might be coming from. Some of it might be my Christian upbringing and that bit from the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus says “But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.” (Matthew 5: 34-37) That was one of the verses I distinctly remember from growing up, and despite my dramatically changed beliefs, it may have stuck with me.

It also might be due to Aspergers and how it reflects in my thinking. As I mentioned before, I am literal. I am absolute. I do not think in shades of gray and I never have. So viewing what I say in absolute, inflexible terms is really only natural. There is also the fact that I have a history of learning to be very careful with what I say simply due to necessity. People who do not have this history may not regularly watch their words particularly closely. Or perhaps the Christian upbringing and my aspie self and history collided, causing some extreme reactions in some of what I say and do.

It is hard for me to remember that not everyone works this way. That people can made a declarative statement with no explicitly stated way out, and still change their minds. That this does not make them liars. I am trying, though, and working on respecting other people’s fuzzy use of language.

Nonetheless, that effort to understand fuzzy language does not extend to myself. Trying to understand that other people are not bound by their word the way I am does not actually change the fact that I am bound by what I say. I wonder if someday this will change, but right now it seems unlikely.

 

Update: Ok, so I wrote this back in August and am only now posting it. That’s sort of how it goes with this blog. However, in that time frame, something changed! Specifically,  I’d added a “not in my right mind” clause for if I make a bad decision at a time when I can reasonably say that my brain is malfunctioning. Then, I’m not bound by it. I haven’t actually managed to test this yet, but it seems to have wormed it’s way into my thinking.

I am also finding myself confronting the fact that in this case, my rigidity is not doing me any favors, and there are probably more circumstances where I need to be able to change my mind. On a side note, it feels really weird to type the phrase “change my mind.”

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1 Comment

Filed under issue, personal, ramble

One response to “Bound by my word

  1. Haha! Now you’ve got me wondering about “changing my mind” too! It’s more accurate to say “I’ve changed my decision”. My mind hasn’t changed! It sounds sort of scary that people think their minds can change that quickly! Or maybe they just mean they’ve got a new synaptic thing.

    Anyway. The thing that I struggle with the most is that people can even casually break promises that they’ve promised. Not just me taking things literally. But actual promises. Simply because it isn’t convenient or because they knew they wouldn’t be able to keep it but didn’t want to say so. That just boggles me. Why say you’ll have something ready for me by tomorrow when you KNOW you need two days? I don’t get it, and my black-and-white brain labels it as lying, and I get very upset, which in turn seems to baffle the non-autistic people because they didn’t feel it was lying at all, just being nice or something. I don’t get it.

    My partner is learning how to be extremely literal with me. It may not seem entirely fair to place the burden on him to talk in a way that I understand, but he respects the fact that my brain has to work overtime on everybody else already, so he wants to give me a break when I talk to him. I think that’s a very nice thing of him to do. And I think he enjoys the openness and non-layeredness as well.