Photo by discoodoni

I feel uncomfortable when it comes to making promises. Saying something like “I can absolutely do that for you.” or “I’ll send that to you ASAP” makes me wary. Why? Because I know myself.

I’m not completely trustworthy, especially when it comes to getting things done. I don’t want to promise anything until I know that I will actually do it and do it on time. Breaking a promise means losing someone’s trust. It also means that I was dishonest (even if unintentionally).

Bigger promises lke “I will always love you” and “I swear I will never ____ again” are obvious trouble-makers. But so many of us say them without worrying if we’ll later break those vows later on. But what if we didn’t promise anything? What would that be like, and would out loved ones have the same confidence and security with us? How would a wedding vow that says “I will try my best to love you for as long as we are compatible” sound?

Lying and promise-breaking also bothered me as a Christian believer. In high school I meditated on the themes of speech, lying, and the power of the tongue. Pardon me for a minute, because I’m about to give you all a little bible study:

Yeah, yeah… fiery depths of hell for all liars, blah blah. We got it. But wait. Behind all the “die evildoers” text, I think these verses contain lessons about our speech that people of all religions and non-belief can live by:

  • Live with integrity; be trustworthy
  • Words have consequences
  • Think before you speak

Do you make promises of love and commitment when you know you might not keep them? Do you make promises in general?

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13 thoughts on “Promises, Promises”

Guy Alan · June 19, 2010 at 10:35 pm

I feel the same way. It drives my girlfriend nuts because every time I say “maybe,” or probably,” or “I'll try,” she sees it as non-committal and indecisive. Not even about relationship stuff—just everyday things. I try to explain that I just don't want to make a promise I might not be able to keep, but she still gets irritated.

    godlessgirl · June 20, 2010 at 7:59 am

    Oh, I feel ya!
    Sometimes I'll leave the room to get some food or something and that means leaving my Skype call with my boyfriend. He'll say something like, “Do you promise to come back?” What, like I'll die on the way to the fridge? I usually call him silly, but I make it clear that I think throwing around promises makes me uncomfortable–even if they're stupid ones.

Jake Olerich · June 20, 2010 at 7:27 am

If I can add one more verse it's “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” It's in Matthew, I believe. And like you said, GGirl, about the other verses, I believe this one holds true for all, as well. One of the reasons people get upset about maybe's and I'll try's is because it reveals our hearts. It's the same as saying “As I answer this, I already know this is not a priority for me. It won't take much to make me not hold to this.” It reveals your priorities. I think rather than lying, we should be honest. And if people are constantly upset with good reason at our honest “no's”, maybe the solution isn't to lie or give a wish wash answer. Maybe the solution is to work on our hearts so we can give an honest “yes” or an honest “I promise”. Yeah? There will be exceptions where honest no is the good way to answer but generally, that's probably not the case if there is a pattern of no's and maybe's in our lives.
With things like marriage, you aren't saying I DO promise flawless love. You're promising that you will not let anything overcomable stand in the way of you making the marriage work. I would say “incompatibility” means one or both parties put “who they are” over what they promised. And I think, Christian or not, when you marry, you should understand that you are putting the good of the marriage above your own desires or identity. The marriage defines your identity. If you're married, your identity should be that of “part of a lifelong marriage”, not “a still-independent person who has a breakable agreement with another still-independent person, see the small print for details”. Clear up the identity issue, and you avoid the identity crisis that leads to adultery, divorce, fighting, abuse, etc.

andrewShall · June 20, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Stuff like, “I will always love you,” is conditional to A LOT of things. When folks say that it's pillow talk.

    Jake Olerich · June 20, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    I agree as to how most people use it. But it's possible to treat it as a determination and a promise rather than a hopeful speculation, right?

      andrewShall · June 20, 2010 at 2:12 pm

      At the best, it's a statement of good faith about putting the work into a long term relationship and that's the best you can ask of anybody.

Opinionminion · June 20, 2010 at 2:09 pm

I'd like to tell people ahead of time that I'm unreliable. I don't like to be a disappointment so I want make sure I'm rarely in a position to disappoint. I think I'd feel something akin to relief if I could do that.

I don't like risks or challenges. I don't like deadlines. I don't like time limits. I don't like the idea of someone relying on me, just like I don't really care for having to rely on someone else. Someone whose approach to life may be laissez faire like mine, or worse.

Gauldar · June 21, 2010 at 6:20 pm

I would probably give the bible credit, only for the peices of knowledge that don't follow up with the underlining message of “Or else…”

Ruby Leigh · June 22, 2010 at 12:50 am

I use to always say “promise to pray for you”… and I had like 100% failure rate with that even when I was claiming “Christianity as my title”. Anyway, I am generally otherwise good with promises…. but I do avoid the phrase.

greateighthsin · January 5, 2011 at 10:03 pm

A promise is only as good as the man who makes it.

I avoid super big promises, but do try my hardest to keep the smaller ones. I’ve had a super big promise bite me in the rear before, and I’ll never do that again.

Mainstay Ministries · April 20, 2011 at 5:15 am

“Promises are made to be broken” that’s what the other says! Some also defend their selves by calling it a promises = white lies. Mainstay Ministries Whatever it is, we should keep our words and just be sorry for the failures (sometimes).

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