BY: T. Franklin Murphy | November 2017 (Edited 2018)
Commitments should be prized possessions that we only give when we are willing to sacrifice to fulfill our word.
Some changes require no more than an insignificant flick, a momentary pause followed by a slightly different action—a change. But many changes fight the momentum of habit, challenging past behaviors to implement new choice. These battles against directional force require commitment—continuous effort, concentrating on goals rather than momentary impulses. Without strong commitment, the powerful waves of addiction, habit and self-interest in the moment overpower the hopes of a better life. We weary in combat, giving way to momentum and return to unenlightened action.
Commitment is essential; but also, sacred. We can over-commit, promising too many things for too many people, setting up failure and damaging the strength of our word. Demands always outweigh our resources, so we must evaluate and prioritize. The thinking involved fatigues the mind and we give in to most salient present force. Failures to follow through, whether in commitments to ourselves or to others, weaken the power of a commitment to motivate us in the future. Like an inflated dollar, it loses value. We offer more and more commitments, even arguing why this new commitment has more value than the last; but the commitment has lost the backing power of trust. Without backing power of trust, the motivation pushing towards goals, we lose a tremendous advantage. We revert in evolution of the mind narrowly focused on the moment.
A string of broken promises devalues commitments. When we use simple excuses as an avenue of escape, our directed life is sacrificed for the chaos of happenstance. Our partners, our friends and our family (not to mention our self) quickly learn that our promises of action are bargaining tools of the moment, offering no assurance for future action. For a few morsels of momentary fulfillment, the long-term rewards of trust are sacrificed, leaving the lonely wanderer without the great resource of others.
Commitments are complex. When built on flimsy resolve to fulfil, we lose their motivational power when confronted with conflict. Some commitments are for single action (meeting for coffee or repaying a loan), while other commitments refer to life convictions. Commitments are not always spoken. Two people agree to a commitment not knowing the other has a different take on what is to be given and what is to be received. General commitments without clarification damage trust without the intent of wrongdoing, actions may be confused. An insecure partner feels a lack of reciprocity in commitment, not because their partner is uncommitted, but because their expectations of commitment are unrealistic. The unconsciously defined meaning of commitment leaves the couple disjointed, suspecting disconnection when no evidence exists. Open communication paired with realistic expectations must be implemented to calm the fears of rejection—not more undefined commitments.
"The unconsciously defined meaning of commitment leaves the couple disjointed, suspecting disconnection when no evidence exists."
Commitments need clarification. Our commitment to our family must be more defined beyond, “my family is the priority.” When conflicts arise between a deadline at work and the child’s award ceremony how will this be settled. The clashing priorities are not easily disentangled. A higher priority on family doesn’t require ruining a promising career, by missing too many valuable opportunities; but evaluation of action must be constantly visited and weighted, consequences considered, and examine the trade-offs made. A partner’s slight headache is important but still attending a mandatory meeting at work may not signal lack of commitment. Open communication. Realistic expectation.
Because commitments are sacred that demand significant time and resources, we should skeptically examine the demands and implications before committing. The greatest honor to commitment, giving them strength, is stingy offerings. We don’t readily promise when we know of the binding power of our commitments. Our word, when given, is gold. Our connections trust us; because they know us. When we say we will be there, they know we be there, save an unforeseen disaster.
However, some commitments should be broken. This may confuse the process, giving license to quitting when resilience should reign. When new facts come to light, we may discover a commitment is misplaced. Because trust is at stake, we must cautiously move forward, examining internal motivations. The allowance of change, invites justifications, weakening of character. If the commitment was important in the past, we must ponder why it is of little importance in the present. Often seeking outside, unbiased guidance may be helpful. The careful evaluation, even if we ultimately decide to abandon the commitment, shows self-respect and solidifies our integrity.
Commitments are necessary to flourish. They serve as the glue to connect hopes with action. They serve as the building blocks of trust, creating the security of intimacy. Without commitments our connections remain superficial, leaving us alone in the greatest times of need. Carefully and selectively commit to change, commit to others and commit to life.