When to Break a Promise

A man is a good as his word — unless he was just talking stupid to begin with. -@jennspoint

One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn about becoming an adult (yes, in my late 40s I’m still working on the “becoming an adult” thing), is that sometimes promises really ARE made to be broken.

I’m not talking about scamming or conning people — or making promises we never intended to keep in the first place. I’m talking about those promises that (we now understand) we never should have made in the first place.

Promises made in ignorance

Digital Embers, by jennspoint
Digital Embers, by jennspoint
Anyone who as ever been through a divorce understand this. We make this lifetime commitment to this other person with our heart and soul. And sometimes before the honeymoon is over we’re thinking, What have I just done? This is a huge mistake! But we’ve made a promise to this person — and to God and our families and ourselves, so we do our best to make it work. Eventually we learn that good intentions are not enough to hold a marriage together, and some of us find the courage to walk away. Others find the courage to stay. Either way, we find ourselves either breaking the promise we made to someone else, or breaking promises we’ve made to ourselves.

Promises made in frustration

I’ve joined about dozen gyms in my life. In all cases, I went a few times and then was stuck having to pay fees to break the contract, or the hassle of dealing with a pushy salesperson who tried desperately to keep me in the month-to-month agreement. A few years ago, I made myself a promise to NEVER join another gym or fitness club, because for me they are a waste of money.

Well, recently, I’ve found myself breaking that promise. I recently lost a lot of weight (about 60 lbs) by changing my diet, and I’ve plateaued. I’m going to have to exercise to continue losing the weight I want to use, and I know myself well enough to know I’m just simply not going to do this at home (I’m too comfortable here). So, I joined a local club for what I think are the right reasons. I have the right motivation this time (I don’t want to undo progress I’ve already made). I really like the people who run the club and the hours work for me. The equipment is “my speed,” and they have one of those hydro-therapy massagers that would be worth the price of the club membership in and of itself. In fact, I’m on my way over there as soon as I sign off here. Wish me luck.

This was clearly one promise that really WAS made to be broken.

Promises made in hurt and anger

Sometimes when we are devastated by the events of life, we make promises to ourselves to make sure we never experience that pain again.

After BOTH of my divorces, I promised myself and my family and anyone who would listen that I would NEVER do that again. Well, it’s been a few years, and so far I’ve kept that promise the second time. But I’m pretty sure if I change my mind at some unforeseeable time in the future I’ll be forgiven for breaking that promise.

I made a similar promise a few years ago after the death of a very good friend. The pain of that experience and the trauma of a few discoveries in the aftermath of that death nearly did me in for awhile and I promised myself that would be the last time anyone ever let anyone get close enough to hurt me like that again. But life certainly does get lonely alone, and I’m wondering if that promise may have to go the way of the no-more-gym-memberships rule. We’ll see.

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