A Promise Is Not a Shirt


I hate to admit it, but I’ve gained some weight. I know, I know. You look at my physique and can’t believe it. Big, dramatic sigh. It’s true. The scale tells me so every week. So do my T-shirts. When I slip them on they make sure I know that my six-pack is a keg ready to bust. When I sit in a chair, the shirt creeps up making my gut look like that of a hairy, pregnant woman. They used to be too baggy on me. Not anymore. Not by a long shot. They are way too tight now and are busting at the seams.


The girls say I should throw them away. They really are not comfortable. Besides, they look ridiculous on me. It’s rare that I even put them on anymore and if I got rid of them I could make room for newer, larger ones. I mean, they are just shirts, after all. There isn’t an emotional attachment to them. Why continue to wear them if they’re uncomfortable?


Some people feel that way about their promises. It felt good in the beginning to make it and the promise fit them nicely. It was easy to keep, requiring no effort and very little thought. Perhaps it was a promise made to a friend, a lover, a family member or a spouse. Things were good and they entrusted something into your care. “No problem. Your secret is safe with me. I promise.”


I’m not talking about where a body was hid or how a person embezzled money from the company. I’m talking about those things that happen between people who are close, within relationships. These aren’t laws that have been broken. They’re matters of life, of the heart. They’re mistakes or dreams, failures or fantasies. You were trusted enough at one time with their secrets, because they saw something in you that they felt was safe.


Then something happened. Perhaps it was a falling out that came to a parting of ways. Perhaps it was as simple as drifting apart or a relocation. Something, however, caused the parties involved to stop speaking to each other. A chasm opened up that could not be crossed. Suddenly, whether due to emotions or new relationships, that promise is too tight and uncomfortable. You want to toss it into the trash bin and forget you even made it. It doesn’t fit right and you’re ready to rip it asunder for convenience’s sake. You’re not in that relationship anymore, so you no longer care whether you keep your promises.


Before you succumb to the tossing out of promises, realize that what you are really tossing out isn’t another person’s secrets, but rather, you’re integrity, your word. If I begin a friendship and the person immediately begins to give me the scoop on former friends, eagerly dishing out the dirt, I know not to trust this person. I know my secrets will be next. His word is only good if the relationship stands, and probably not even then. When the relationship fails, so does his word.


“I just couldn’t keep that promise, anymore. I release myself from it.”


While that sounds noble, it’s truly ridiculous. You can break a promise. You can even ask to be released from it. However, only the person you made the promise to can release you from your vow. Otherwise, you’re still guilty and have proven to be an untrustworthy person. Wishy Washy.


I rarely make promises, especially if I’m unsure of a friendship. I also don’t want the burden of other people’s secrets. I may forget and work it into a storyline somewhere. Don’t laugh. The way my imagination goes, it could very well happen. I could be sitting in a group sharing a scene from a book I’m working on thinking I came up with a great plot twist only to find out I just outed Billy’s affair with Julie in front of his wife. It’s just too much responsibility.


Before I make a promise, I think whether I’ll be able to keep it once I’m pissed off and no longer talking to the person. It’s not that you’re being loyal to a person who did you wrong. Rather, you are actually being loyal to yourself, proving that, no matter what, your word means something regardless of the situation. Promises are not temporary vows. Keep your word, no matter how uncomfortable it gets. While shirts can be tossed in the trash and new ones bought, your word can’t be. Furthermore, while you may not think it’s a big deal to throw out commitments, I assure you that those around you do, and I promise they’re watching. How do you want to be seen? As a friend once said to me, “It’s better to take the high road.” Besides, the air is much cleaner up there.


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