Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What is Commitment?

Last week I started thinking about an old college friend who suddenly disappeared from my life almost two decades ago. She had been my best friend for 10 years, and I assumed we'd be buddies forever. One day, though, she stopped answering my phone calls. Try as I might, I was never able to find out why, and it has haunted me ever since.

When I look back on it now, I realize that even though we were a match for several years, over time I grew and developed in ways that clearly made her uncomfortable. It didn't matter to me that she wasn't interested in psychology or spirituality, as was I. I adored her exactly as she was, and I was committed to our friendship.

Revisiting this relationship wasteland again recently captured my attention in a big way. I realized that I had to let this go, once and for all, so I could be more committed to the great people who are in my life right now. I realized that holding onto the story of this long-lost friendship was probably a way of protecting myself from being too vulnerable in subsequent relationships. Paradoxically, the experience made me a more compassionate friend in some ways, and a more disengaged friend in other ways.

Commitment is a funny thing, because it can be extremely positive and important in many cases, but isn't necessarily what's called for. Sometimes it means never leaving someone, and sometimes it means showing due respect to someone you've cared for. Sometimes it's explicit, like when we marry or take a sacred oath, and sometimes it's implicit, like when we bring children into the world. Sometimes it's just assumed. Probably as many people have been hurt by commitments as have been empowered by them. It's complicated, and so often open to personal interpretation.

This week, please join me in taking time to consider what role commitment has had in your life. Have you been a good friend or loyal partner? Have you been committed to yourself? Has a lack of appropriate commitment been an issue or pattern in your personal or professional life? Have you suffered by having to follow through on a commitment that you wish you hadn't made?

Please also take time to honor the loyal, committed people you've been blessed to have in your life. These may or may not be your favorite folks to be around, but they're the ones you can count on. They may be friends, family members, coworkers, health care providers, teachers, neighbors, or even your lawyer, mail carrier, or favorite grocery store clerk. Acknowledge yourself, too, for all the times you've honored your commitments or perhaps handled difficult relationship issues with sensitivity and integrity.

Take care, and have a beautiful week.