No problem, I can do that!” “Don’t worry, I’ve got it covered.” “I promise.” “I’ll make that happen.” We, humans, love making commitments to each other. It makes us feel wanted and needed. But often it seems like the only thing easier than making a promise is breaking one. Making commitments is vital to our relationships with other people, though, so how do we manage our commitments in a way that allows us to grow and be challenged but also to feel fulfilled and not “overstretched”?
The Bible says that we should “not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ mean ‘no,’ that you may not incur condemnation” (James 5:12). Still, we make promises all the time, often with good intentions, but sometimes never end up fulfilling them. So, why do we make those commitments if we know (or least suspect), deep down, that we won’t keep them anyway?
Psychological research has shown that we end up neglecting our promises because we make a conscious commitment to the promise without evaluating all the subconscious thoughts that affect our likelihood of following through. It’s easy to say, “Sure, I’ll read the Bible for 30 minutes before bed each night,” but it’s very difficult to keep that up, because we don’t remember that we also committed to spending time with a significant other before bedtime or that we also promised to call a friend we haven’t spoken to in a while. Before we know it, the “other” things pile up, and we’ve forgotten our promise altogether. Why should we make promises, then, if we can’t keep them? Because the act of making promises commits us to relationships with other people and gives us opportunities to grow along the way. We should certainly do our best to keep these promises, but when we inevitably break a promise or two (or several), God provides us with the incredibly humbling and valuable opportunity to sincerely apologize and promise to “do better next time.”
Take stock of the promises you have made to other people in the last month. Have you followed through on them? Are you actively working to follow through on them? Have you forgotten about them? How could you better live out one of your promises, say, to be a better husband or wife, a better student, or a better team player?
Try to pick one promise to work on this week, and make a personal commitment to keeping it. Set an alarm on your phone, or write a reminder on your calendar, and ask, “Have I addressed my promise today? How can I do better?” Research shows that we actually keep our promises more when we keep them to ourselves. So keep this exercise to yourself. Write down your promise and make the space and time to reflect on it. As we recommit ourselves to our personal promises, we will also be in a better position to commit ourselves to larger goals, like a commitment to God and his Church.
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
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