I have often wondered what happened to making and keeping the commitments we make. I understand that these days, it can be hard to balance all the things we have going on. Yet it sometimes seems as though making empty promises has become almost trendy.
Part of the problem may be that there are impossible expectations placed on families. We’re supposed to work full-time, parent our children, and participate in a variety of family and individual activities. We are also supposed to eat healthy, homemade food, go to the gym, get enough sleep, volunteer in our communities, support good causes, and keep up on world and local events. For those of us who are religious, we must also be part of the life of our worship community. For our family, that means attending weekly church, bi-weekly services during the week, monthly prayer sessions, Bible study group, and volunteering within the church. It’s no wonder that many of us are in a fog over scheduling.
Another barrier is guilt. We feel guilty about the things we do because each one claims it ought to be top priority. How can we choose between religious activity and family, if the two don’t involve the same people? How can we choose between practicing music and exercise, when each one is developing an important part of ourselves? How can we choose which child’s game to attend, or whose recital is more important? It doesn’t help to hear messages like the one we regularly hear at church about the monthly prayer session. We’re told that if we don’t show up, it’s because we “don’t want to pray.”
To cope with these conflicting schedules and criticism, we double-book ourselves or make promises we can’t (or don’t even intend to) keep. We tell multiple people that we will show up, then find ourselves backing out because we simply can’t do it all. We wear ourselves out trying to be everything to everyone, or at least look like we are. But in the end, we leave messes for other people to clean up. Double scheduling also leads to guilt about having made promises to several people and having to back out of some or all of them.
I am proposing a radical shift in our thinking. We need to stop apologizing for making choices. We need to make single commitments to things, and do what we believe is right in a given situation. For us, that meant not attending prayer for much of the year. Our kids have activities at the same time, in opposite directions, during the same time slot as prayer. We made the choice that we can spend time in prayer alone, with each other, and with friends. We aren’t short-changing God. I don’t feel bad that we made that decision.
We also need to follow through with our commitments. I would imagine that should be easier once we choose between conflicting events. However, I think this is more difficult than it sounds. We’ve become so used to failing in this department that it will take discipline to manage everything once we do sort it out. In the end, though, it will be worth the effort.
Let’s become people who are true to our word.