A long time ago, in a mental state far, far away, I published a post detailing how I would never make a promise again. I reasoned that I was unable to hold promises despite my best intentions. I had made promises I intended to keep, but was incapable of the follow through. As a result, I’d hurt people I cared about deeply.

Not long after that, I discovered a band I’d never heard of. In This Moment has a song entitled The Promise, and after having heard it I realized there are promises I can make and keep. I contemplated writing a post about my revelation, but decided against it due to some of the negativity I received on my previous post. Most of it was admonishment for being so hard on myself.

Recently, I discovered a quote on Words for the Year which made me ponder promises again. This time, I have decided to write about it.

❝ Of course I’ll hurt you. Of course you’ll hurt me. Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence. ❞

Antoine de Saint-ExupéryThe Little Prince

You see, when I wrote my previous post it wasn’t so much me being hard on myself as it was a simple truth. All of us, no matter our intentions, will hurt people we love. It will most likely be unintentional. We’ll likely be unaware we have done so until we’re called out on our actions. It will probably be something outside of our control. It could be something committed in a random moment of control lost amid raging emotions, or a moment in which we’ve temporarily succumbed to our inner demons.

I’ve hurt people. Rarely was it something I set out to do. In fact, I can only recall one single instance where I went out of my way to hurt somebody. I’m very ashamed of that act and I’ve only shared what I did with one person. Fortunately, my misdeed did little more than embarrass my victim.

Upon deeper reflection, I realized that I’ve hurt every single person I’ve ever loved. I concluded it’s just bound to happen. We’re all different. We all have moments where we act without forethought. We all react to things in the heat of the moment. We all succumb to our emotions at times and act irrationally. I’ve hurt my father. I’ve hurt my mother. I’ve hurt my brothers. I’ve hurt my children. I’ve hurt girlfriends and wives. I’ve hurt friends. Hell, I’ve hurt myself.

In turn, all those mentioned above have hurt me. Most of it was unintentional. Some of it wasn’t. Most of those people found forgiveness in my heart because my love for them outweighs by far the recklessness of one thoughtless act.

It’s inevitable that we will hurt each other. There will be misunderstandings and disagreements. There will be times tempers flare. One of us will have a bad day and take it out on the other.

There will definitely be broken promises.

Promises can be dangerous. It’s important to never promise anything absolute. Most things are outside of our control and therefore absolute promises will be broken no matter how well-intentioned they are, it’s just a matter of when. You can’t fulfill a promise to someone that you’ll always be there for them, unless you can see into the future (and if you can hit me up, I want some winning lottery numbers). It’s also important to understand, as the recipient of a promise, that any absolute promises not be taken at face value, but for the intention behind it. Life is fluid and as a result everything is in a constant state of change. Those changes are what will ultimately break an absolutely promise.

After running all this through countless filters in my head, I realized I can make the following promises:

  • I promise to be there for you, my friends, when possible and to the best of my ability. There is only so much I can give, however, and I ask that you recognize that.
  • I promise to always try to be the best version of me that I can be. I can’t always be at my best, but I will always give it my best effort.
  • I promise I’m always looking for ways to make myself better. For you. For me. For my children.
  • I promise to continue learning from my mistakes.
  • I promise I will hurt you, but it will be unintentional. I am not perfect, and I know I’ll fuck up. I ask only for your understanding when I do.

Those are all the promises I can make. I can guarantee nothing else. I realize I’m broken in some ways and I know (mostly) my limitations.

What are your feelings on promises?