Twice in my life I have stood in front of family and friends and made very public promises that I would love and cherish another person for the rest of my life. Twice in my life I have had another person stand in front of their family and friends and promise to be there with me, through better or worse, until death do us part.
All four of those promises have been broken. My first wife broke her promise by emotionally, verbally, and, occasionally, physically abusing me. I broke my promise to her by refusing to put up with it any longer. My second wife broke her promise to me by deciding not to stick by me when I fell into a depressive state in which I neglected her needs. I broke mine by refusing her advances after she came to the realization that she had, in her opinion, made a mistake.
I have made promises to other people along the way. I have told friends that I would always be there for them through thick and thin. I will always be there for you, no matter what. I have your back.
Sadly, life gets in the way. People change. Circumstances change. Emotions change. Always in motion is the future. Nobody can predict what life will throw at us. Just because you look into the future and don’t see any circumstance that would make you break your promise doesn’t mean that any such circumstance doesn’t exist. I have broken more promises in the last year than I care to admit and it has taught me to no longer make promises. I feel shame, utter shame, for the promises I have broken. I surely never meant to make promises I couldn’t keep, but that doesn’t absolve me from the mistakes I made in making them.
There is an old saying: never say never. The idea behind that saying is that you can never predict where life will take you and you should never rule out the possibility that you’ll do something that you wouldn’t consider doing in that very moment. For instance, after my first marriage ended I told everyone who would listen that I’d never get married again. Then I fell in love with my second wife. After the twins were born I said I’d never have another child. Then I married my second wife and had a third child. I once swore that I’d never wear flip-flops. They were ugly. Then I bought a pair to wear for a trip to Myrtle Beach and realized I enjoyed the laziness of putting on flip-flops over the annoying task of putting on shoes and socks. Hell, there was a time as a teenager when I swore I would never drink alcohol. I think we all know how that one turned out.
So I have learned to never say never. I have also learned to never say always. I no longer make promises to anybody. Even the simplest promise, born from the kindest place in your heart, can lead to heartache if you fail to follow through with it. Nothing is guaranteed. Absolutely nothing. This is a lesson I have learned the hard way. I have hurt people I never, ever dreamed of hurting. The hurt I have caused them has, in turn, caused me indescribable pain.
So, please, beware with your words. Your intentions may be pure, but the consequences could be dire.