Reliability is a word that is used in many different contexts. In engineering it can refer to the ability of a process, system or component to perform its required functions with little to no variability over a period of time. In research reliability can mean the quality and precision of data presented, the degree of certainty and variability derived from method used in an experiment. Psychologists also use the word reliability to describe the validity of data measured from a population and the ability to replicate it in multiple tests.
Human reliability is the study of the capacity for human beings to perform without error in a particular role under different conditions. Pilots for example are screened for their ability to operate with reliability and without error. Reliability is also a word that we come to associate as a desirable trait in a person. Someone who is reliable is trustworthy, dependable and competent among other things.
A Reliable Mentor
If just one word can be used to describe a Jedi it would have to be reliable. Consider Obi-wan Kenobi or Yoda. Both Jedi Masters were loyal, dependable, trust worthy and committed to the Order and to their own values. Obi-wan was a reliable mentor to Anakin for years and then watched over Luke from his hideout on Tatooine. Obi-wan Kenobi’s reliability as a mentor extended beyond life as he continued to guide Luke after his transcendence to the Force.
Jedi could be agile and adaptable as the situation dictated but they were firm in their convictions and application of principle. They talked the talk and they walked the walk. The Jedi Code rejected killing for the sake of killing. A Jedi could not take another life unless it was in absolute necessity and in self defense. Being reliable also meant that the Jedi were predictable in their response. To the Sith this was a weakness and one which Darth Maul, Darth Sidious and Darth Vader all exploited in their individual battles with the Jedi.
Those that view reliability as a flaw are unlikely to follow through with commitments or be true to their word. Promises are broken, contracts are breached, debts are dishonored and decisions are changed on a whim without consideration of others. Lies are covered with lies and more lies to keep the ship afloat. I can describe the hallmarks of unreliability with some authority because they are those that denote an alcoholic personality. People in active alcoholic abuse are not only unreliable but they take advantage or exploit people that are reliable. The people who are the most trusted by the alcoholic are the people that are most harmed by his selfishness.
Over the years our actions reveal our twisted nature. People learn that they cannot rely on us any longer. We lose our jobs, friends start to abandon us and our partners leave with broken hearts. Banks foreclose and debt collectors call in our debts. In the end we cannot not even rely on ourselves to manage our own lives any longer.
Through reliance in a Higher Power we begin to find our sanity. At some point we wake up and start to get honest with ourselves and regain our self respect. Gaining the confidence of others with time and effort we begin to appreciate the virtue of reliability in ourselves and in others. Our actions start to align with our values. We no longer view people’s trust as a weakness to be exploited or used but as a treasured gift.
A Rare Virtue
Despite what the Sith thought, reliability is a virtue, not a weakness. Ralph Waldo Emerson lamented that to find a reliable friend was the hardest thing. Reliability seems to be the rarest of virtues. Perhaps that is why Obi-wan Kenobi is the archetype of the reliable mentor and guardian in the Star Wars saga. The lifelong commitment he puts in to protecting and teaching the “chosen one” marked him as the most reliable Jedi . In this universe and in this life how can we aspire to the same level of reliability as a person? What are the traits of a reliable person and what are the benefits?
- Commitment: Reliable people do what they say they will do.
- Honesty: Reliable people tell the truth, even when they would rather not. If we can’t deliver on a promise or commitment we should be upfront about it.
- Realistic: Reliable people don’t try to bend reality but tell it as it is. If a situation is bad, they call it bad but do not play the pessimist either.
- Humility: Reliable people don’t “big note” themselves nor do they put themselves down. Reliable people know where they stand in the world and do not need to be at the center of attention or above anyone.
- Team: Reliable people work as part of a team for a team rather than solely for their own personal advantage. They are ready to help.
What are the advantages of being reliable?
- Deeper relationships that are built on mutual trust and appreciation.
- Greater opportunities for work and business. Reliable people get known and are sought out by recruiters, employers and customers.
- More autonomy and independence in life as reliable people do not need to be constantly monitored and scrutinized by supervisors, partners and peers.
- More sleep. Being reliable means that we don’t have to lie awake at night in guilt or in worry about the things we did or said. Reliable people are more confident and happy as they know they have nothing to hide or excuse themselves for.
- Tolerance and simplicity because reliable people know that the world is a place of diverse views, opinions and people and they can live with that. Life becomes simpler and beset with less drama. Reliable people can achieve peace and equanimity that others only dream about.
Think of all the people you know who you would consider reliable and compare those to people you have known who were unreliable. The differences are pretty stark. To be Jedi is by nature to be reliable. By our very nature and through our conduct people will automatically see whether we are reliable or not. We may fool them once or twice, but I guarantee, you will not fool them for long.