Promises, Intentions, and the Road to Hell
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Separation.
I wrote a sentence today that shocked me as soon as it came off my fingertips. I probably stared at the computer screen for another five minutes, thinking of the implications.
While arguing today with the roofer over whose responsibility it Â is to fix an error in the way they input my account, shaving six months of Â interest-free financing off a roof thatâ€™s already been charged when the job isnâ€™t complete yet, I reminded the project coordinator that the 12-monthsâ€™ free financing was yet another promise theyâ€™d failed to keep. The project manager had told me several times that I was lucky to have gone with them instead of a small roofer without all their guarantees, and yet, Iâ€™m still waiting for that guarantee to fix all the damage to my ceilings, walls, garage door, etc. So what good are the guarantees?
Then I wrote a sentence that jarred me.
PROMISES ARE GOODÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â ONLY WHEN FUL- FILLED.
Their promises were a major reason I entered that business relationship. Their guarantees.
But what of personal relationships? How many times do we make promises to each other? If life stayed still and nothing changed, maybe promises would be more reliable. But it doesnâ€™t. We are all constantly-moving baselines, ever changing, whether itâ€™s growing or growing stagnant. We canâ€™t promise with any degree of certainty that weâ€™ll be the same person tomorrow as to- day and feel the same tomorrow as today. In Â fact, if weâ€™re to grow as people, hopefully we wonâ€™t be the same tomorrow Â as today.
That doesnâ€™t mean weâ€™ll turn in opposition to what we think and believe today-maybe instead weâ€™re just upgrades. Personally, Iâ€™m going for Lorna 3.0, not necessarily more compatible with the standard units but more bells and whistles than in the last few years.
So why make promises? Security. Especially in personal relationships and romantic relationships.
But itâ€™s a false sense of security, isnâ€™t it? We want guarantees. We want to check off the box that says itâ€™s done and we donâ€™t have to worry about that in the future or give it any more of our time and energy. And to give our hearts, we desperately want those guarantees. We want to reduce the risk. We want to know weâ€™re safe from heartbreak. We want to set the boundaries so we canâ€™t be hurt except we want the boundaries to be impenetrable force fields.
A man can promise his bride that heâ€™ll be good to her and that heâ€™ll be faithful, but the promise is only an intention, and of course, thereâ€™s that old saying about the road to hell being paved with good intentions. So at the wedding, he says heâ€™ll be faithful, he makes the promise to forsake all others, and then what? He can always rationalize away his Â actions, and maybe some will be justified. Who knows? The promise to be faithful does not make him more or less faithful than no promise at all. If it takes a vow or a legal arrangement to be faithful, then how strong is the Â relationship? With or without the promises and legalities, there is no guarantee. He either will be or wonâ€™t be.
The best way to predict the future, itâ€™s said, is to look at the past. Letâ€™s apply that advice to the scenario above. Generally, men who cheated in the past will cheat in the future. Itâ€™s a pattern. But trauma and Â awakening can break that pattern. A man who was abusive in past marriages will generally be abusive in future marriages, but if something happens to be bring him to his knees, then yes, thereâ€™s a possibility of Â change and growth and a true turnaround with the next wife. I do think itâ€™s rare and requires a lot of introspection, though.
But with baggage in the past, everyoneâ€™s nervous, so they give Â and extract promises in new relationships. And then they donâ€™t really believe it so they put chains on each other and demand each otherâ€™s time and location and burden each other with their own insecurities, when so much of it is not required if theyâ€™re used to being treated well by the Â other. Â And if those measures are required to feel secure, do they really Â keep him faithful or is he just a bit more ingenious in how he eludes his warden? Is he really where he wants to be or is he living an illusion?
So are all romantic relationships damned? I donâ€™t think so. But I donâ€™t think itâ€™s about making promises to each other or putting chains on each other. I think itâ€™s about making a commitment not to love/honor/cherish but to sustain a conscious effort, not just the day of Â the wedding but every day, to treat each other well.
Because if you treat each other well, and you have an established pattern of treating each other well, I think the honoring and Â cherishing grow naturally out of that. And the love just gets stronger.
What is desired from a promise is gained by living it, not by saying the words to make the sale.