Is That a Promise?

When is a promise broken?  I suspect we give ourselves more leeway than we give others.  How much weight do we give to “circumstances beyond our control” when assessing the situation?  Is addiction one of those circumstances?

I don’t think you can trust the promise of someone with a history of failure w/o setting strict compliance markers.  If, for example, an alcoholic (whose inebriated behavior is completely unacceptable) is not actively working a sobriety program, then the markers remain simple.  If you promise not to drink and you get drunk, you’ve failed.  If you promise not to get drunk and you have a beer watching a ballgame and stop there, you’ve succeeded.  If you promise not to bring liquor into the residence and you do, you’ve failed.  If you use another person’s glass of wine with dinner as justification, you’ve failed.  If you can’t remember what you did or didn’t do (or hope claiming not to will let you slip the consequences), you’ve failed.

Promises, big and small, are broken every day and promises are honored every day.  The quickest way to prevent breaking your own promises?  Learn to say “No.”  You can phrase it tactfully … you can explain … you can apologize …  or you can simply decline.  Saying “No” prevents both guilt (you) and disappointment (them) and short circuits blame and resentment.

Tradition, custom and previous behavior can become a type of promise.  Once you begin acting and continue to act in certain ways, attempts to change meet resistance.  You’ve made a “de facto” promise that’s mostly beneficial to another.  It could be mutually beneficial or allow you to avoid something less welcome, but promises are usually favors.  I prefer conditions favor me … for the result or action that I want.  I assume everyone else has a similar bias.  I don’t assume that everyone else tries to be fair even when they prevail, but I do.  I see no reason to take more than I need or deprive someone else of things that I don’t need.

In general, I believe most people are a mix of things with tendencies toward one end of the spectrum or another.  However, taken to extremes (extremism), meet narcissism, nihilism, altruism and martyrdom.  We all have an equal right to exist, but life has intrinsic value beyond how it benefits people.  And then you have that great Vulcan creed, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.  Or the one.”