Promise – a declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that guarantees that a particular thing will happen.

I’ve been thinking lately about what it means to make a promise. Keeping promises wasn’t ‘drilled’ into me as a child because my parents did so without saying. Between my parents and Sunday School I learned keeping a promise – no matter how small – was something I should always do.

At first my reasons were puerile. The first reason as vanity: promise keepers are ‘good people’ and I didn’t want to be looked upon as ‘bad’. The other reason was fear: breaking a promise was more than just a lie, it was far worse for it involved bringing in the witness of Heaven – and God would send me to hell for breaking my oaths.

My reasons for keeping my promises became more sophisticated, but the concept hasn’t changed. It is terribly important for me to keep my word.  It seals a covenant of ineffable power.  “I promise” is as certain as a written contract that something will be so. I still have a sense whenever I break a promise this taints everything and everyone -and mostly me.

Thus I don’t make promises lightly or often.

I did not take the Hippocratic Oath for a couple of reasons; one of them was there were certain parts I doubted I could  promise. My school mates took it just a fun ritual.  But I saw it as a very serious pact. If I could not do it, then I would not vow it.

Perhaps this is why I have never formally ritualized my relationship. To promise another to love and be with him, for better or for worse, is very scary promise.  It frightens me I won’t have the stamina to do so, and the broken promise would destroy more than a relationship.

Serious heady stuff – making a promise.