Keeping the promises we make to ourselves is important because if you can’t count on yourself, who can you count on? Keeping those promises shows us we’re trustworthy and dependable. That’s a good thing!
But for all the promises we gladly keep, there are other promises — promises which have outlived their usefulness, which no longer fit our lives.
That’s the problem with open ended promises. Sometimes there’s an implication that these promises can and should go on forever. If we don’t take time to re-evaluate, new promises become old promises.
Old promises can become burdens, the source of anger and frustrations. The promise you made yourself to always stop for groceries on Friday before the weekend turns into a nightmare when you’re bringing along a cranky, exhausted two-year-old you’ve picked up from daycare.
Out-of-date promises conflict with new promises that need to be kept.
The man who promised to always, always, always be at his parents’ house for the Christmas holiday gets into a fight with his new wife because she made a promise to always, always, always be at her parents’ house for the Christmas holidays.
Are we obligated to live up to every single promise we’ve ever made? Do we need to carry them around like so much baggage until they finally die of old age? Should a promise be the source of resentment and bad feelings?
Rather than be passive aggressive on the promise keeping and then feel guilty because I’m falling down on my commitments, I prefer a proactive approach.
Promises with time limits.
Setting time constraints on promises encourages me to reflect regularly — and without all the guilt.
For instance, I’m on the board of my local homeschool group, and when I joined the board, I promised to serve as long as my son was still in high school. But I’ll be “graduating” from the homeschool board at the same time he graduates from high school.
Several years ago in January I promised myself I wouldn’t start any new projects until I finished all the old ones. During that year, I completed two quilts and a bunch of smaller projects, but because I made this promise for a year, as December rolled around, I knew that promise had run its course and I was ready to start something new.
Periodically thinking about the promises I make is a promise I’ve made to myself. Putting a time limit on a promise is another.
I owe it to myself and the people around to think about the commitments — the promises — I’ve made. Does this still work for me as something I want to continue? If it’s a promise that involves other people, I can connect with them and see how they feel. Does this commitment still fit our lives?
More importantly, it helps keep me from getting over-promised, a.k.a over-committed.