Why I make promises I can’t keep (and what to do about it)

Promises. The world is littered with broken promises.

Wild, unfounded promises.
Sleazy-salesman’s promises.
Solemn and sincere promises.
Just-to-keep-you-quiet promises.
Made-in-the-heat-of-the-moment promises.

With each broken promise the sense of regret or resignation to the inveitable, “How could I have been so stupid?” or, “Did I really expect them to keep their word this time? After all that?” Trust is broken, the bonds of friendship fray a little more.

“I would never have done that,” we reason, “after all, I wouldn’t have made the promise if I didn’t think I could keep it. That’s just wrong.”

And we judge others more harshly than ourselves; glossing over our own failings we dwell on theirs. Yet we are not so perfect. Perhaps we are guilty of breaking more promises that we realise….

Broken Christmas Decoration

As the Christmas ornaments come down, promises are made. Our resolutions, often grounded in little more than regret for the year that has passed, reflect our aspirations of what we would like the future to be. We dream of a better, happier life.

  • “This year I will lose weight.”
  • “This will be the year I write that book.”
  • “Before the year is out I will have a new job.”
  • “I will mend my relationship with my old friend.”

So, what of your dream? Have you forgotten the promises you made to yourself? So that’s another one broken?

Right now I am giving you the permission to start over.
Draw a line and try again.
But there is a condition.

Don’t make the same tired old promise that you made before – that is setting yourself up for failure. If you couldn’t keep your word last time how will a fresh start make any difference? You need something new – a promise that you can keep.

  • “I will cut the sugar out of my diet 5 days per week.”
  • “I will spend 15 minutes writing each day.”
  • “I will dedicate one hour each week to actively seeking new employment.”
  • “I will spend 1 minute every day being grateful for my friend.”

Now cut yourself some slack. The Biblical writer said God’s mercies are “new every morning”, so allow yourself to start afresh each day. If I didn’t write yesterday it’s in the past. If I “failed” and ate some chocolate, well today is a new day.

Just as the sun runs its course again each day, we can start again too.

Comments are closed