Whatever Happened to Commitment?

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By Myrna Conrad

We often start each New Year with commitments (New Year’s resolutions) to do things differently. We commit to eat less, work out more, spend less, travel more, step out of our comfort zone more, love more, stress less, and numerous other grand aspirations to start the year right.

Commitment is seen differently by different people and it seems to have morphed into something different over time. The definition of commitment is “an agreement or pledge to do something.” A pledge is “a solemn promise or agreement to do or refrain from doing something.” We make commitments in so many different areas of our lives: marriage, relationships, work, social activities and beliefs. Sometimes we make serious life changing commitments and sometimes we make commitments without thinking very much about them. Some commitments are long term and some are for a specific task or activity. If commitment means that you are pledging to do something, it means you are giving your word. Therefore, integrity and commitment go hand in hand. Our commitments should demonstrate a clear picture of our convictions and beliefs.

Fulfilling our commitment should not change with what feels good to us at the moment or what we’d rather do. I remember as a teenager making a commitment to do something with a relative and then getting an opportunity to go out with someone I had been hoping to go out with for a while. But, my mother taught me a very important lesson by making me keep the prior commitment. She told me that to break that commitment was to break my word. I learned a very valuable lesson about integrity and fulfilling my commitments.
We live in a different world now than the one I grew up in. I see a big difference in how people view commitments today. Very few people stay committed to their marriage anymore. There are some marriages that need to end for the protection of those involved, but so many more end just because one or both don’t feel their needs are being met or that they no longer love each other.

Few people work in the same company for more than a couple of years. I remember a time when people would stay with a company their whole lives. Companies don’t commit to their employees anymore either. Today companies down size, right size, terminate people and hire people with more concern regarding the bottom line of the company than the well-being of the employee.

People hop from relationship to relationship, from church to church, from job to job, from cause to cause from activity to activity. Commitments today, seem to be linked more to emotions or desires, than to convictions and integrity.

It is important to take time to think and understand what a commitment requires before making it. It is also important not to over commit knowing that you can’t possibly fulfill all of your commitments. Since making a commitment is to give your word, then not fulfilling that commitment affects your integrity. I’ve often heard it said that it takes a long time to develop a reputation of integrity but only one action to destroy it.

We may not think breaking a commitment really matters, but people are watching. We rarely do anything in life that only affects us. One of the greatest values that you can teach your children is to fulfill their commitments, to finish what they start. Lead by example. They learn by how well you fulfill your commitments.

Do you want to live and demonstrate a life of commitment? Here are a few strategies:

Be Aware:
Be aware of what you are committing to and of your ability to fulfill your commitment.
Reflect on how you feel when someone does not fulfill a commitment they made to you.
Think about who will be affected if you break your commitment.

Realize that integrity and character take a lifetime to build but only a moment to lose.
Understand that commitment has nothing to do with what you would rather do or how you are feeling at the moment but with what you have said you will or will not do.

Be Intentional:
Make every effort to fulfill any commitment you make. There are always extenuating circumstances, but those should be the exception, not the rule.

Make sure your convictions and your commitments match up.

Teach your children what it means to fulfill their commitments. Lead by example.
Don’t over commit, because when you do, you are less likely to fulfill all of your commitments.

Live your life with integrity. Make keeping your commitments a priority.

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