Keeping promises we’re meant to keep is wonderful. They build trust, strengthen relationships, create bonds. We feel good about ourselves.
One of the things that keeps us from intentionally navigating transitions, moving forward in our lives, and feeling great about ourselves, is when we keep promises we’re not meant to keep. These are the promises we’ve made with every intention of keeping. Some of us hold so strongly to the promise that we keep it, even when it’s not the best thing for the person we made it to – or for us. Keeping these promises can leave us stuck, impact our health, and/or compromise our safety.
This can happen in any area of our lives.
One common promise that’s made between loved ones often happens early in their lives together. It’s when something triggers them to think about growing old:
“No matter what happens, let’s promise each other we’ll take care of each other at home.”
Some of us in roles of caregiving support are living those promises even when it compromises our loved one receiving the care they need and/or us receiving the care we need.
There’s no one right answer for whether or not we’re keeping promises we’re not meant to keep. There are, however, ways we can evaluate whether or not this is a promise that’s meant to be kept.
Whatever the situation, and whether you’re the person currently keeping the promise or someone concerned about a loved one keeping a promise, here are several sets of questions that reimagine keeping promises so that you determine if they’re promises meant to be kept.
- When we made this promise, did we have any knowledge of – or did we know to consider – what we’re going through right now?
- If I keep this promise, will I be safe?
- If I keep this promise, will the person I’ve made the promise to be safe?
- Am I qualified to keep this promise?
It’s important to have one or more people in our lives who we trust, so we can work through our emotions and fears about the promise together.
The next set of questions are valuable to work through with them from a variety of perspectives:
- What will happen to me if I keep this promise?
- What won’t happen to me if I keep this promise?
- What will happen to me if I don’t keep this promise?
- What won’t happen to me if I don’t keep this promise?
- Whether or not I keep the promise, what do I want?
- Is there a solution I don’t know about that provides compromise?
There are millions of articles and quotes about keeping promises. They are motivational, inspirational, and created for the promises we’re meant to keep. For the promises we’re not meant to keep, they fill us with feelings of guilt, disappointment, and/or failure when we consider not keeping the promise. These cloud our hearts and minds so we can’t see clearly what to do.
Give yourself permission to do something even more important than keeping a promise you’re not meant to keep – letting go of it so you can replace it – through peace and acceptance – with what’s right and best now.