What does the word “commitment” bring up for you? For some of you, it may bring up fear, feelings of constraint, or suffocation. For others of you it may stir thoughts and feelings of security, love, stability, and integrity. My thoughts on commitment have shifted as I have come into the middle phase of my life. As a younger person, I understood the definition of the word, but had not really lived commitment yet, or truly understood what it would take to uphold it.
Commitment usually refers to a relationship or marriage. However I am also referring to the different commitments that we make to ourselves (ie, new years resolutions, goals, self-care practices, decisions to change something about yourself, let go of something that doesn’t serve you, or release an addiction) and how quickly those commitments can be abandoned, ignored, or deemed unimportant. Often this is done in a very unconscious way, without you immediately realizing how it happened.
The concept of commitment has been on my mind and seems to be calling me to write about it. The following reflections and insights have developed for me over the last several weeks and I’m sure will continue to evolve. As I walk into this idea, I sense the enormity of it. There are so many angles to take on this. It’s even a bit overwhelming. Let’s just call this conversation a work in progress. Writing that statement relieves some invisible pressure I have put on myself and allows room for movement. Does this struggle sound familiar to any of you when you consider commitment?
Commitments Demonstrate Integrity
A commitment is a promise. It is your “word” or “vow.” It is a direct reflection of your integrity. I speak of integrity often in my office, in other group work that I do, and also with my own personal work. Integrity is the ability to maintain consistency between what is happening within you and how that manifests to the outer world. It is implied in the first of the “Four Agreements” (Don Miguel Ruiz) to “Be Impeccable with your Word.” When you practice that, your inside and outside experience match up. When you deny your true thoughts, feelings, or behaviors and instead share with or show others something different, you are not in integrity. And as a result are breaking a commitment to yourself or to another. This creates a self-denial that can be quite damaging over time and disconnects you from your True Self.
So, commitments to yourself or to someone else provide an opportunity to demonstrate your integrity. Making a commitment needs to come from that “clear yes/clear no” place inside of you that we discussed in a previous post on the “Top 2 Secrets for a Healthy Relationship.” Without this clarity, it will become more and more difficult to uphold your commitment as time goes on and challenges arise. And my belief is that the less clear you are from the beginning, the more challenges you will encounter as a way to encourage your clarity. It speaks to having patience and taking your time when considering a commitment. We always seem to be in a rush, or flippantly agree or promise something and then have to back out, feel stuck, or shut down.
Commitment vs. Resignation
Remember that the decision to make a commitment is a decision. It is a choice. You do not have to do it. That is where patience and consciousness come into play. Is it something that you really want? Does this situation provide room for you to bring your full self into it? Will the experience or relationship stretch and grow you?
If you commit to something out of a need for approval, to please another, to uphold an unrealistic expectation of yourself, or out of denial of your true feelings, you may be able to uphold excitement and stick with it for a short time, but it will ultimately become an experience of resignation. This fuels resentment, self-destructive behavior, and may even contribute to physical symptoms in your body. The more of your Truth that you stuff, the more it festers on a physical level. If you don’t honor your Truth, your body will create a situation of dis-ease where it will be very difficult to ignore it.
Proactive and preventative measures are called for here. If you make a commitment, make it with 100% of your inner knowing. Do not misunderstand me, commitment will challenge you to your core, because it is inherently a process of growth and transformation. However, ultimately upholding that commitment will serve the highest good of yourself and those around you. It moves you forward in your life and enhances your well-being even in the midst of challenges. If you find yourself deteriorating within a committed situation, examine how you came to that commitment in the first place. Was it from a place of Truth or resignation?
Respect vs. Fear of Commitment
When I was little and my family would take our annual vacation from Virginia to the beach on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, my father would always have the same talk with me. He would sit with me as we looked out into the massive ocean before us and he would caution me that the ocean contains great power and that power commands and deserves respect. He did not tell me this to scare me, but to instill a confidence in me that with the proper respect for the ocean’s immense power, we would stay safe and have a lot of fun. That teaching served to assist me in my relationship with the grander forces of nature. To this day, I share that teaching with my son.
The same concept applies to commitment. You may be afraid of it. Afraid of making the wrong decision, of losing yourself, of regretting it. However, there is no need to be afraid of commitment when you realize that what is truly required is respect. Respect for the power inherent in a commitment and that you must enter it from a place of clarity and pure integrity. Be patient, don’t rush, stick with it, and know that a commitment is an opportunity to grow. From there, you will stay safe, honor your True Self, and open yourself to receive the gifts that this commitment will provide for you.