What are the best ways to respond to others when they do not keep their promises? Clearly, responses like anger, resentment and recrimination are counterproductive. What kinds of positive choices are available?
A basic first step is to appeal to the core values that may have been the foundation for the promise in the first place. Appealing to basic values like fairness, integrity and truth may shift the result.
The desired degree of action about a broken promise is most often a function of its importance and impact. At their most extreme, broken promises can result in significant emotional distress and other kinds of difficulty. Yet, the principle of a broken promise can be deeply troublesome even if the issue is primarily one of keeping one’s word.
How have you wanted to be treated when you have broken promises in the past? What are the extents to which you have gone to have others live up to their promises? What are your limits and boundaries about broken promises? Most importantly, what have you learned about promises and how to engage in productive promise-making that produces great results?
Each of us has made and subsequently broken promises to ourselves about all kinds of habits, behaviors and thoughts. Exercise, diet, relationships and money are among the key areas where we humans have promised to do or not to do something – and we have found ourselves making excuses and breaking our promises.
It’s been difficult for we humans to hold ourselves individually accountable to ourselves, so there have tended to be little to no consequence for broken promises beyond guilt and regret.
How good have you been at keeping promises you have made to yourself? Have you made New Year’s resolutions? How well have you kept them? What can be done to improve your ability to keep your promises to yourself?
Oaths and vows are “bigger than life” promises. Presumably, the consequences of breaking a vow or an oath are larger than that of breaking a “mere promise.”
Have you been able to make a distinction among agreeing, promising and vowing / making an oath? What are the practical implications of vows and oaths? Should we simply rely on giving our words and have that be enough – both in terms of what we do and in terms of what we expect?
What would you counsel a person coming of age in our culture about promising and the making of oaths and vows? Are oaths and vows antiquated and outdated?
Making promises can be a powerful ingredient of personal growth as long as promise-making is done in good faith with a complete intention to honor the promise. We’ve talked in Study Hall about the definition of a brand (in business) as a set of promises, and there is similarity in how promise-making affects one’s personal reputation.
The more often we make and keep promises, the greater our reputation for reliability and credibility.
Can you think of promises that you have made that have had you grow beyond what you thought possible? Have you ever tried to renegotiate a promise when faced with difficulty in delivering? What was the result?
Who in your life has the best reputation for keeping promises? Who has the worst?What did you learn from each person?
The word “promises” is a word that is more often used in our culture than “oath.” An oath is a powerful promise typically made in the presence of a Diety. Thus, an oath has the added consideration of the inclusion of a higher power as and when conceived by the person making the oath.
How do you regard promise-making? All humans have broken their promises from time to time because, up to the present moment, we have not been perfect. Are there any promises that you have made that rise to the level of being oaths? What key promises / oaths have you broken?
Do you make many promises, or do you shy away from them? Do you make oaths at all? If so, when?
Try to regard this topic with an open mind and no negative judgment toward yourself. The rewards are rich.