On the Difficulty of Keeping Promises

Jan 15, 2014 | 4 comments

I swear to...

I swear to…

All the eyes looking at me from across the table were mildly accusatory with a bit of hurt thrown in for good measure.  The lunch group had just been told, and not by me, the whereabouts of an absent member.  The thing is, I had seen all the folks belonging to those eyes more than once since the missing person had gone underground.  They now knew that I had known and, apparently, they all felt the same mild sense of betrayal.  By me.  I hadn’t said a word.

The trouble was, I had promised.  I had been solemnly asked to remain mum as to the where, the why, and the how of this sudden disappearance and I had agreed.  Now, the person sitting next to me was ‘telling all’ without compunction.  No such promise had been extracted from this tablemate by our mutual friend and, as the conversation continued, it was my turn to feel a bit betrayed.

Keeping promises is hard.  Right up there with “cross my heart and hope to die if I should ever tell a lie.”  It’s one of the important lessons we are taught in childhood but, like other lessons dealing with morality, we don’t often understand its full implication until much, much later.  Like, the big lesson of be careful to whom you promise what.  Sometimes, keeping promises becomes hurtful to others along the way or even causes you to be less than honest with your friends.

And therein lay the problem yesterday.  To me, being forthright and honest with my friends – with everyone, really – is one of the most important rules to live by. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have promised anything knowing that I might right headlong into issues of transparency (mine) and privacy (someone else’s.)

All-in-all, our lunch gathering left me with much to ponder.  “Good for your soul,” one of my ex-husbands would have said,  But then… what did he know?


  1. Jenny

    Being a promise-keeper will often result in awkward times. Don’t change! You keep someone’s trust by keeping the promises you’ve made.

  2. Karen

    You did good. 😉

  3. Jo

    I agree with Jenny. Better to keep your promise, even if others don’t understand. Once they stop to think, they should be glad to know they can confide in you, without it becoming known by one and all.

  4. Cate Gable

    Sydney: I’m voting with all above. Keeping mum about something we’ve promised to tell no one else about is sacred. Even when others may not play by the same rules.


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