Saturday, May 24, 2014

I Promise

Those words sound so simple, don't they? I promise - they float off our tongues like little butterflies, with an ease unflattering to their content. We say them so freely, often not taking into consideration the sting they have when we don't follow through. Each and every one of us have been on the receiving end of a promise gone awry. Whether it was a best friend, parent, boyfriend or sibling, we all know how deep a broken promise can cut.

"Yes," you say with such gusto it's clear you've been hurt by someone who didn't keep their word. Before you get all flush faced and start drudging up all the times you were promised something you did not receive, think about whether you've ever been on the other side.

We all have, haven't we? We've said we'd do something we never ended up doing. I promise to make the bed. I promise to send your gift in the mail. I promise to clean the bathroom. I promise to pick that up from the post office. I promise I will never say that again. I promise to do better, try harder, be nicer. I promise. I promise. I promise.

Oh, and there are plenty of excuses, aren't there? I forgot. I didn't bring it with me. Time wasn't my friend. Was I suppose to do that today? I didn't mean to say that again.  I had to work late. What can I say? I suck. And these terrible excuses so often don't come with the two words needed to truly rectify the situation. I'm sorry. Those words seem to be the two hardest in the entire English language, followed swiftly by 'I was wrong'.

And it truly feels awful to have a promise broken, even if they are tiny things that seem so inconsequential. But for me, it feels worse to do the breaking. I never mean to break my promises, but sometimes it happens. Life gets busy. I get tired. And promises I once made can get forgotten. There is no reasonable excuse for this, but I do feel terrible when it happens. Maybe that's worth something. A little forgiveness, perhaps? When there is genuine remorse involved and a desire to not let it happen again, then moving past a broken promise is possible. It can be done.

What happens when that remorse and determination to do better isn't there? What happens when there is no apology and no chance to forgive? I suppose that's when it is time to move along. I try very hard not to make promises I have no intention of keeping, even promises I know will be hard for me to keep - like anything with a time frame, or if saving a piece of cake is involved. That being said, I think of the cliched promises people make and cringe.

I promise to love you forever. I promise to be with you until I die. I promise things will never change.

Talk about promises that are going to be hard to keep. Romantic, maybe. But also stupid. Here's the thing, I don't believe promises are intentionally broken, but end up being so due to a lack of consideration for the other person and an inability to time manage appropriately. They are only two little words, I promise, but they are important ones. And perhaps saying them without thought should be avoided. Maybe this calls for a promise not to promise so flippantly. Or maybe we should strike the words from our vocabularies and simply exist instead and give what we can when we can without anyone holding us hostage to promises we made on the fly without forethought.

Even more, don't ask people to promise unrealistic things. Or anything at all for that matter. I think I lost the point to this somewhere near the second paragraph.

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