The most important person to keep your promises to … is yourself.
“however fashionable despair about the world and about people may be at present, and however powerful despair may become in the future, not everybody, or even most people, think and live fashionably; virtue and honour will not be banished from the world…”ROBERTSON DAVIES, THE MANTICORE
We have lived through some dark times and continue to search for the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Politicians and pundits have raged, schemed, lied and occasionally come up with a nugget of truth or something useful while we have been left to fall back on our own psychological and emotional resources.
From what we have seen on social media, it would be tempting to believe that everyone is a highly strung, selfish neurotic. The echo chamber of our fears fills us with nightmares and insecurities. The endless repetition makes us believe that base behaviours and cruel attitudes are normal, or widespread.
The insidious repetition plays on the hard wiring of our brain, making it easier to believe in fear and hate as it tugs at our amygdala and triggers basic and defensive responses in us. We use it to justify acts we would once have condemned in ourselves and others. Slowly the world becomes darker for us and our moral compass is defeated by the fog of fear and anger.
But this is not the world. This is the reporting of the world. We must never forget that reporting and reality do not correlate. We must not let this undermine our ability or willingness to act in accordance with the best of our principles.
“The most important person to keep your promises to is yourself”ANONYMOUS
If we are unwilling to hold to the promises we made to ourselves about who we are and what we are prepared to do or act upon, then we become unable to keep the promises we made to other people.
In most cultures, the keeping of one’s word is a question of honour – and rightly so. When we strip away the warrior trappings that are entangled in this concept, we can see that being ‘forsworn’ or an oath breaker is one of the oldest reasons for personal or social shame. And we continue to feel that deeply in our own lives.
Rappers and gangsters, priests, and queens, all place a high value on the keeping of one’s word. And all see this as part of social standing as much as individual worth.
The media encourages us to see broken promises as normal
The cumulative reporting in the media encourages us to see breaking a promise, or even lying, as perfectly normal. Very little consequence appears to stem from those acts. Politicians and leaders ‘get away with it’ all the time. So why shouldn’t we?
This becomes normalised for us and subtly we feel we are empowered to follow suit. To become deceitful, shape-shifting, promise breakers in the name of expediency or wealth. We are adopting gangster values without even noticing the shift.
- Pro-life people kill in the name of the sanctity of life.
- Animal rights activists kill, hurt people, and animals in the name of animal welfare.
- Eco-warriors riot and trash the environment in the name of a better one.
And so it goes on. Not everyone, but some. And soon anything and everything is justified. But we know in our hearts that if we take this route, if we become what we fear and despise little good will come of it. We don’t need religion, psychology or even neuroscience to remind us of the truth. But it sometimes helps to go there for a refresher.
Whatever our cause, our fear, our lives, it is time to stand up and remember that whatever we are being told, most people do not lie, cheat and use violence on their path through life. There is a power in us all to summon something better than this. And it is time we summoned it and manifested it in our own lives and in the pursuit of the causes, we hold dear.