All that was needed was a handshake
A Man's Word Was His Bond!
        by Tom Woodard
In the old days, and even continuing up into the fifties and early sixties - no doubt longer in the South than elsewhere - it was said that a man's word was his bond, and it was true! A lot of folks nowadays wouldn't know what was meant by "his bond", but when a work is guaranteed, very often a bond, either by cash or an insurance bond, is posted to insure the satisfactory completion of the job. Therefore, when it was said that a man's word was his bond, it meant that all the "bond" that was needed was the man's word that he would do what he said he would do. Contracts, in those days, were usually verbal or oral, and were sealed by a handshake. And that was all that was needed.

And it was understood that if a man's word was no good, his "bond" therefore being no good, then he was no good either and he was not to be dealt with nor trusted. In those days this was a matter of severe disgrace. Honor meant something back then, and a man without honor was shamed. A man knew that if he was to be paid, he owed an honest day's work, and if he failed to give it, he didn't expect anything, as he had not earned it.  A man's character was all he had, and not to have a good character was a heavy burden to bear. A man without good character was looked down upon. He was "no count." A poor man of good character was more highly respected than a rich man without honor, and rightly so.

We live in an age now where not only is business no longer done with a handshake, but even a written contract is no good. Credit card companies, telephone companies, cell phone companies, mortgage companies, and other large businesses can change a written contract unilaterally, without notice, to your detriment, and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it! In other words, a contract is no longer a contract. Where once a handshake constituted an iron-clad guarantee, now there are no guarantees at all! Honor, character, and a man's word, once more valued than gold, are largely anachronistic these days, reflecting the low level to which human relations in general have sunk in this Country. It is a sad state of affairs.

No matter how "old fashioned" it may be, I am determined, always, that if I give my word - my "bond" - on something, anything, I will do it or die trying. And many is the time when I have done so, just as my grandfather and my father before me did, even though it cost me dearly due to a change in circumstances between the date of the promise and the date on which I was called upon to fulfill that promise. But the satisfaction of having kept my word was, and is, more valuable to me than gold. It is a value and a way of life that I learned not just by instruction but by the example of my forebears. I do not take undue pride in this; I just know that it is the way in which I am to conduct myself.

It is my sincere belief, young people, that if you will make your word your bond, and consider your handshake upon an agreement as ironclad as any old-fashioned contract, as in the days when a contract really meant something, you will be highly respected among both your elders and your peers - at least among those who count for something. It is not reputation that matters within, in your own heart and your own soul, but character. They say that reputation is what men see, but character is what God sees. Let your word be your bond, and your character be good and solid. Do the right thing, no matter how much it costs you. Value honor and integrity. Be dependable, and give of yourself beyond what is demanded of you. These things are, indeed, more valuable than gold!

A man's word, even today, should be his bond. Be true to your word.

Copyright June 27th, 2008, by Tom Woodard
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