“We must not promise what we ought not, lest we be called on to perform what we cannot.” ~Abraham Lincoln
My first lesson in promise keeping was one I didn’t think was quite fair. When I told my mom that, she gave me the universal answer, “Well life’s not fair.” I wonder if that theory goes back to Biblical times.
One summer when I was a kid my neighbor friend had invited me to go swimming on guest day at her club two weeks in advance and I accepted. Two days before our swim date another friend called and invited me to her very fancy club for lunch and swimming. It was a place where the ladies tied their sweaters across their shoulders in the summer even though it’s really hot and men showed up for lunch in their suits. I really wanted to go. This was a much better invitation. I had to decline. I’ll always remember Mom saying, “You don’t back out on a promise just because what you think is a better offer comes along.”
Giving your word, I learned in 5th grade, is nothing to be taken lightly. Why is it we say we’ll do something, whether volunteer for the church bake sale, or promise to love and cherish, but when something better comes along we change our minds? When promises and commitments are tossed in the trash like yesterday’s newspaper, hearts are broken and mistrust creeps in like cockroaches.
Either make a commitment and follow through or don’t promise to do something and let people down. Disappointment in saying no to serving on the PTA is forgotten as soon as the position is filled. The frustration stirred up by not keeping commitments, for whatever reason, takes a long time to fade.
A promise is a promise whether it’s a written covenant, legal document, or verbal agreement. We may not be capable of a lot of things, but being a person of his or her word is something we all can be.