I recently parted ways with a new(ish) friend. I had really hoped we would hit it off, but in a nutshell, we didn’t. And for all my best intentions, I couldn’t seem to find my way into her busy, nebulous schedule. I couldn’t convince her to commit any time to friendship-building. The ambivalence surrounding these interactions eventually grew strong enough that I decided it wasn’t meant to be. Rejection, overt or covert – or in this case, plain old neglect – is never a pleasant ride. Such is life. The time/people/work balance problem is nothing new. While things ended on friendly terms, the experience has left me pondering the concept of commitment and what that means in my own life.
What is commitment?
If there is one thing commitment isn’t, it is not an emotional state. It doesn’t come and go. Commitment has nothing to do with feelings. Commitment is a choice. Commitment is follow-through.
As a child, one thing that was hammered into my head night and day was, “Thou shalt not lie.” Following through on one’s word fell under the same category. For this reason, most of my family and friend circle take their commitments seriously. While life has its way of interrupting well-laid plans and these occasions call for flexibility, by and large, when someone I know says they will help on moving day, they mean they will help on moving day. When someone says they will be at a family event, they mean they will be at a family event. And the few who frequently fail to fulfill their promised word get fewer and fewer inquiries. It is natural to want distance from someone you can’t trust to pull through.
I am reminded of something David wrote in Psalm 15:
“Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous….who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind.“ Psalm 15:1,2,4 (New International Version)
Ouch. That’s pretty countercultural.
Take the simple text message, as an example. This mostly informal method of communication is easy to forget, easy to ignore, and sometimes is used as an opportunity for last-minute back outs when we don’t feel like following through on prior plans. Nevertheless, despite its informality it has become a primary mode of communication.
As I think about commitment in our family over the last several years, experiences that come to mind are:
- late nights
- early mornings
- working on patience
- trying again
- finding joy in the mundane tasks
- communication about expectations
- budgeting for long range goals
- saying ‘no’ to opportunities
I say ‘no’ a lot, but probably not as often as I should. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been approached about serving on the PTO to help organize school activities. When people see me trudging around with six kids (four of which attend this very school), it’s only natural for them to invite me into the organization. While I am more than glad that our school has ample volunteers, for our family right now, and for me personally, adding additional ongoing evening responsibilities would push us right to the edge of sanity.
No one can do it all. And I would argue, most of us only do a small number of things at a time, well. We all know that spreading ourselves too thin only leaves us exhausted, and impacts the quality of our work and our relationships negatively.
This season I am asking myself what I need to trim so that when I say ‘yes,’ I really mean yes. I want my communication, even my basic text messages, to be meaningful. I want to be the sort of person people can count on to pull through.