I was five when my dad was killed in a plane crash so my grandpa is the patriarchal figure who taught me about contracts.
Rule #1 was: Don’t ever sign anything you haven’t read completely. Ever.
It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to read whatever it is, read it, and let them wait. After all, the person who is asking for your signature wants it. They can let you read whatever it is.
That covers written contracts, or, as the lawyers would say, contracts reduced to writing, but what about the unwritten contracts we all make? More, what about sacred contracts?
You go to a party with some friends. One of them drives. The assumption is that whoever drove will be driving you home. A contract of sorts. Unwritten, but implicit.
You have a friend who wants a Fulbright. You’re a grantwriter who has won a Fulbright. Your friend asks for your help. You agree. A contract of sorts. Unwritten, but understood.
You are hired to consult on culture for a company that needs to revamp the morale of its peeps. As a consultant, you might have a written contract with deliverables and metrics, but the unwritten part of the contract—which is largely unspoken as well—is that the person at the company who is hiring you is entrusting you to care for their team. This is a sacred contract.
So is the Declaration of Independence, the Pledge of Allegiance, the Nicene Creed.
What is a sacred contract?
Well, there are spiritual teachers who would tell you that a sacred contract involves the laws of karma, that it has consequences, that fulfilling a sacred contract can be life or death.
What I think, though, is that a sacred contract is any contract that makes us use our faith. I don’t mean our religion; I mean our faith.
Take the 104 Bus in Manhattan. Its route is a sacred contract. When you get on the 104 bus in New York City, you don’t ask the driver if you’ll be on the 104 route. You have faith that you will be. In fact, it’s only if you won’t be that the driver feels the obligation to tell you so.
There are sacred contracts all over our reality.
You go to CVS and you buy a tube of toothpaste. Do you take it to the manager and ask, “Is there toothpaste in this tube?” You do not. You have faith that there is toothpaste in the tube. It’s a sacred contract.
You go to Out of the Blue, a seafood restaurant outside of Boston, and you order cioppino. Do you summon the waiter and ask, “Is there real lobster in this fish stew?” You do not. You have faith that there is real lobster in the stew. It’s a sacred contract.
You go on a blind date with a new person. Do you give the friend who set you up the third degree about the person? You might if you’re afraid, but usually you do not. Instead you have faith that your friend will set you up with someone you can at least spend an evening with comfortably. It’s a sacred contract.
The action that is derived from the state of being that is faith is trust. Sacred contracts involve trust at every level.
Now a lot of us tell ourselves that we have “trust issues.”
“Trust no one.”
“I only trust myself.”
“Trust God, and tie your camel.”
But the thing is: that’s a straight-up lie. Living on Earth means that we have to trust or else go stark raving mad.
This week give some thought to the sacred contracts you’ve entered without so much as even thinking of them as contracts. Read the fine print, dear one. I’m pretty sure that what you’ll find on the dotted line that asks for your signature is Trust.