“Oh, all the promises we broke. All the meaningless and empty words I spoke…” ~The Cranberries.
It’s easy to make promises. The part where we have to actually keep them, though… that’s a bit trickier. Time was when a promise was an unbreakable oath, said only under the most reverential of circumstances.
Back when I was a kid I remember my mother saying that a promise was something you never committed yourself to if you weren’t 100% in. It wasn’t something to be taken lightly, so I’ve never taken it lightly. It’s kind of like the word “love,” to be cherished because it is rarely seen in the wild.
And my whole life I’ve followed that piece of advice, reserving promises until I was sure I would be able to come through on the fulfilling portion of it. It was especially important to me because my father almost never came through on his promises, yet he was always big on what I called “one more promise.”
“I know I didn’t come through last time, but just give me one more promise,” he’d say, and I knew he meant it, that he was absolutely sure he would come through even when he hadn’t before. But that was the problem. He didn’t see the glaring signs that said he wasn’t going to keep his promise, no matter how heartfelt it was when he made it.
That “one more promise” made me hate promises. It made me want to stomp all over them and throw them in the garbage, but it also made me that much more determined to keep my own. When I use those words they’re more than words. They’re bonds that, come hell or high water, I will fulfill. So I keep it close to the vest. I reserve my promises for high percentage situations.
And on the rare occasions that I have to break a promise my soul dies a little. It doesn’t matter what comes up to make that happen, or how forgiving the other person is, I feel absolutely horrible. I wish that weren’t the case, that I could forgive myself in those rare moments, but that’s also why I only use that word “promise” sparingly.
That’s also why the word has so much more meaning when others use it with me, and why I’m so devastated when they don’t come through. And I hope at some point society remembers the meaning that word should have. I hope in some way my dad would stop using it too, because I can’t stop getting my hopes up.