When Papa Bear and I were semi-newlyweds, I gave him a Promise Keepers’ Bible. It was not well received. While my intentions were good and honourable (I swear it!), the implication was (apparently) abundantly clear: he didn’t keep his promises. In fact, that was not true then, nor is it now. Papa Bear has always been very good about not committing to anything he wasn’t sure he could carry through, and carrying it through if did commit. (Except giving up carbs, but seriously, who can stick to that?)
I, on the other hand, am less successful in this area. Despite years of training, I tend to over promise and under deliver. I blame my inclination to give people the answers they want. If the answer a person wants is, “I’ll do it today”, then that’s what I say. The fact that I’ve said it to ten other people today, and still have catch up from the ten people I said it to yesterday, tends not to register on my radar.
What I need is a promiseometer. The idea behind this nifty device is that it records every promise you make, as you make it. It sounds an alarm when the deadline is looming, and a louder alarm when the deadline passes. It records how many promises you’ve made and alerts you when you reach a certain quota. And best of all: it cannot turned off without the promise being fulfilled.
Just think of the possibilities: no more disappointed kids because you were “too tired” to read tonight’s bed time story, even though you’d promised. No more disgruntled clients because the deadline you’d agreed to has passed. No more neglected spouses, let down friends, angry creditors – none of that. That’s all done. Because now, a promise you make would have to be a promise you kept! Perhaps the alarm could just be the beginning, and the longer you go without keeping your word, the more painful and violent the punishments become!
I think most people have a promiseometer already. It’s called common sense, with a good dose of boundaries and a heaping side order of reasonable expectations thrown in for good measure. The simple truth is that when we break promises, we instantly convert ourselves into liars. And who can ever trust a liar? I certainly don’t want to be that, yet I become one every day as I rack up a slew of unkept promises.
The Bible has a very simple solution in James 5:12:
“But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.”
Am I the only one who over commits and fails to deliver? Has anyone found an effective, consistent way to deal with it?