All of sunny yesterday, I flitted furiously over a freshly-mown field, setting the ‘rustic yet elegant’ décor for a friend’s wedding. After already having given countless hours ordering, meeting, delivering and directing—before the 15 hour wedding-day-workday, I was totally spent. Weddings are as lovely as they are challenging. For those of you who have dreamt of getting married (I have), been married (I have), helped other people get married (yesterday), stood up for a marriage (I have) or struggled with the concept of marriage altogether (yep, I’ve done that too—have I gotten everyone yet?), you know what I mean.
Weddings stir up the drama of our human experience. As we sit in church clothes and wait for the organ—or violin for this event, our minds wander. We might hope for a new beginning, a lasting love or a life with lasting promises. We might feel excitement as we imagine a fun future that creates marvelous memories. Or, we may feel the weight of sadness creep into our hearts as we think of deceased family or friends whom would have so enjoyed seeing the service. We might even wander through thoughts of our own previous, current or non-existent marriage, and feel the myriad of feelings that go along with that. It’s a lot to process and no bloomin’ wonder why so many people cry at weddings (I did).
Traditions and Irreverence
Weddings are a tradition. We’ve done it for centuries, in many forms and fashions. We marry on rooftops and in canyons. We jump from airplanes and scuba dive. We wear jeans or just the skin on our backs. We’ve become more accepting non-conventional relationships. In today’s world, tradition in wedding form and participants is all but the toss bouquet, with each newly-engaged couple dreaming up their version of an “I’m gonna do it my way” adventure. However, there is one tradition that has forever stood the test of time. It is the defining “thing” that makes a wedding a wedding—it’s the exchange of vows.
The exchange of vows is our promise. It could be, or should be, the life-giving, stabilizing, true meaning of marriage. Note that I say “should or could” because often, the words and promises are meaningless. How many of us who are or were married know what we promised our beloved? Do we remember? Or how many of us simply repeat the words that the officiate says, thinking, I just want to be married, get this over with or whatever, and could care less what words we use?
As I observe my fellow humans being, I see a deeply disturbing flippancy and acceptance of lies of all sorts, including white. Yes, white lies matter. Whether we outright lie, mouth words without asking ourselves if we really mean them, or are simply naïve or ignorant, any lie of any color, is a broken promise.
There are three kinds of promises:
A placating promise is one with “empty words” and will almost always not come true. The words promised mean nothing when we speak them. We might as well be emphatically promising to “Blah, blah, blah.” It would mean the same thing as if we said the words “I love you.” We justify saying these words to make ourselves or others “feel better,” get out of “jams,” and when we may not know what else to do.
A promise to promise is one that is a token and will almost always not come true. It is said either knowing full-well that we are not willing to fulfill it or that we don’t really know enough about the promise or our ability to fulfill it for it to be true. Again, we justify saying these words to make ourselves or others “feel better,” get out of “jams” and when we may not know what else to do.
A promise to win is one that comes true. Giving winning promises is a character-strengthening experience. It gives those who make and receive promises comfort, safety and a sense of security in their relations.
It takes willpower—focus and follow-through, to make a winning promise. If you’re ready to begin knocking the socks off your betrothed, beloved, betwixt-or-between-lovers, friends and associates with promises that you dare to keep, consider these things:
1) Accurately assess who you are so you know if you are capable of fulfilling the promise. This includes assessing shortcomings and strengths. Ask yourself:
a. Am I physically and emotionally capable of doing or being the promise?
b. Am I talented in the ways that will be required? If not, can I get help from others?
c. And most importantly, am I truly, deeply and whole-heartedly willing to do or be what I intend to promise?
d. Is there any part of me that does NOT want to fulfill the promise? If so, what would I need to know in order to become willing?
2) Choose words that mean what you say. If you promise to never chew with your mouth closed again, but what you really mean is, I’ll try to remember to close my mouth but I may need you to remind me … you may be setting yourself up for future frustration.
3) Make sure that you and the person you are promising mean the same thing.
If you promise to take out the trash, ask the person you’re promising, “what trash would you like me to take out each time … I want to make sure I don’t let you down.” You might think that the “trash” is the big garbage bin outside. You might think you’re a hero for taking out that big garbage bin. Unfortunately, the if person you’ve made the promise to thinks that the “trash” consists of all the empty fast food containers laying on the kitchen counter, all 5 indoor garbage bins, all the stale food in the fridge, emptying the litter box, the lint trap, the air filter, the stuff laying around in the garage and car, you’re a moving target for an argument.
4) Look for ways to show your promises are true by behaving in ways that match your words. If you promise that you will be more considerate of someone’s feelings, regularly ask them how they feel and how you can be supportive.
What would it take for you to only make promises that you will keep? Have you heard white lies and promises lately? Have you been let down by your own or someone else’s promises? Please share with us that we may grow in truth and willpower together …
Always with love,