Promises, promises …

Lately I find myself singing the words to Lady Gaga’s Promises, Promises with renewed vigor. And not the happy kind. Didn’t promise used to conjure up more positive images? I remember associating the word with hope, potential, success, the Boy Scouts and John Denver. Now, the word makes me feel, well, frustrated.

It strikes me there’s a new normal in today’s society when it comes to promises and commitments. They’ve become weightless.  Flimsy. There’s little if any consequence if they’re unmet. Often no apology.  We make promises easily without much thought to whether we really want, can and will follow though.

I’ll call you later. I’ll stop by next week. I’ll let you know how it goes. I’ll text. I’ll email. I’ll visit. I’ll be there by five. We say it. They hear it. But neither side really plans on it. If it happens, it happens.

Commitments go uncalendared, unchecked, unchallenged.  And then, whatever we said we were going to do doesn’t get done. And the next promise rolls off our tongue and into oblivion. Why is that? Are we really too busy to hold ourselves to the standard of doing what we say we will do? Has this really become too high a bar?

Is it because our society has become so fixated on the now?  We want so badly to stay flexible, live in the moment. We’re enamored with speed, advancement and instant gratification. These are our values.  So we don’t mind when someone blows us off because something better came along.  No problem.  We’re cool. Things come up. Things change. No sweat. Don’t come. Don’t call. Don’t care. All good.

I have no scientific data to cite here, but I suspect this societal trend is resulting in inefficiencies, missed opportunities, a lot of frustration and probably considerable heartache.

Enough! I want to be able to depend on the call that’s promised. I want to know with some certainty how many are coming for dinner. I want to know when you’ll have that report, when I can expect my delivery.  I don’t want to pull another all-nighter to make up for someone else’s thoughtlessness.  I want your promise to mean something.  When you make a commitment—that is, when you say yes, yeah, uh-huh, okay, 10-4, sure thing— I want to believe you’re going to do your very best to deliver on it. Even if it means having to turn down a fabulous invitation to get it done.  And I want you to expect the same from me.




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