Things were different when I was a kid. We didn’t pinky swear or make promises lightly. When someone made a promise to me, I believed they’d follow through, and they usually did. Anything less was unthinkable.
“Your word is your bond.”
“We did the deal on a handshake.”
“Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.”
The “Pinky Swear” Lost Its Power
During a recent bible study a Christian dad mentioned that he thinks making promises is bad because it teaches children to sin. I thought it a curious comment and asked, “How is making a promise to your kids a bad thing?“
“It teaches bad habits, because we break promises. That teaches kids to sin, so it’s better not to make promises.”
Is he right or wrong?
Some people think of commitment the same way they pursue faithfulness to God’s Word. A nice goal, but one that’s likely to fail. Accepting that, the standard becomes “I’ll give it a shot. If it doesn’t work, oh well. Nobody’s perfect.”
“So sorry, but…
A while back, we stopped offering some ministry events because people often accept free invitations and opportunities without a lot of thought. When folks confirmed and reconfirmed, we made plans and investments in the event.
And then the no-shows began to stack up. The polite ones sent their regrets an hour before. Others didn’t show up, but sent an email or text after the event was over.
- “So sorry, something came up.”
- “So sorry, but I was up late last night.”
- “So sorry, but it’s raining.”
- “So sorry, but I didn’t realize I’d run out of _____ and have to go to the store.”
- “So sorry, I got busy doing something else and forgot.”
- “So sorry, but another opportunity came up that I’d been waiting for, so….”
Commitment is not synonymous with convenience. Commitment is a matter of good manners and personal character. It requires that we respect the time and effort of others as much as our own – and, it’s a scriptural imperative.
Maybe that falls under “love your neighbor as yourself”?
But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.Matthew 5:37
Commitment means, “No matter what.”
I’m not sure how many would agree with that simple declarative statement. It calls today’s standard a lie; that trying is good enough.
How hard does someone have to try to get a pass on breaking a promise or failing to follow through on a commitment?
- Does it count if they meant it at the time?
- Does it count if they made a phone call to see how feasible keeping the promise might be?
- Does it count if they made five phone calls?
- Does it count if they tell you what you want to hear so you don’t feel bad?
No matter why a promise wasn’t kept, the response used to be, “If you couldn’t keep it you shouldn’t have made it.” There was never an easy out. No acceptable excuse.
Character Guides Actions When Life Gets Interrupted
Things happen. Like death. Yours or someone else’s. Great bodily injury. Yours or someone else’s.
What about iphone failure? Maybe you dropped it in the toilet or your battery died. Do you have neighbors? Do you own the only phone on the block?
I gotta admit, I’m having a hard time coming up with pithy excuses. Every time I think of a new one, I hear my mother’s voice. She’s isn’t buying any of it. And she’s been gone for 22 years. That’s how deep the need to keep promises was ingrained in kids where I grew up.
- Commitment never makes excuses.
- Faith requires commitment.
- Trust is built on commitment.
“No excuse, Sir!”
I was taught that making excuses was almost worse than the original failure. My brother went to West Point and learned to respond to any suggested shortcoming with, “No excuse, Sir!” I remembered that.
When I was in my early 20s (seems like a hundred years ago) I exceeded the speed limit on the interstate east of Minneapolis trying to make it to my parent’s church on time. The fall-out from being late to church would be far worse than getting pulled over for speeding.
A whoop-whoop and spinning lights came up behind my tan VW beetle.
“Do you know how fast you were going?”
“What’s the hurry?”
“No excuse, Sir.”
I didn’t get a ticket. But I was late to church.
It was noted. And mentioned.
I should have left home sooner.
Change one thing and you can change the world
Our world is a mess. Even the Christian part, but you can change the trend line by making progress in one area. Here are three suggestions to consider:
- Teach your kids what God’s Word says about promises, commitments, and covenants.
- Establish scriptural standards in your home.
- Follow them yourself.
If it’s too late to teach your kids, model right behavior to your grandchildren. You can still do #2 and #3.
No one is perfect, and things happen. But short of losing conscience or death, there is no good excuse for breaking a promise or failing to keep a commitment. Circumstances change. We know that, which is why we factor “stuff happens” into promise-making.
Have you made promises to God? Have you kept them all?
What was His response when you said, “So sorry, but…”
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