This I Believe

Renee - Rexburg, Idaho
Entered on May 11, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: family, integrity

Promises are made to be kept.

Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “The best way to keep one’s word is not to give it.” My father subscribed to the same theory and told his children countless times, “I never make promises because there is always a chance I won’t be able to keep them.”

Growing up, I learned many important values while living with my father and step-mother. However as a little girl, I was not able to comprehend the importance of making and keeping promises. I was not taught by example. It wasn’t that my father made promises and then failed to keep them; he never made promises in the first place. My father’s main goal in raising five kids was for each of us to grow up being happy, healthy, and wise. I cannot recall him ever mentioning wanting his children to grow up being bold and willing to commit to our word.

When I was sixteen years old, my father said that I could not get my license or get a car until I improved my math grade. My mother and I asked him if I got an A in math, would he let me get my license? All he said was, “It’s probable” or “Maybe” but never would he commit. I didn’t understand why he couldn’t just say yes. We fought, and argued, and disagreed, but my father continued to stubbornly repeat that he would not promise anything. That was the moment when I fully understood how important making promises are. The confidence to make a promise results from having complete trust in oneself to try one’s very hardest to keep that specific obligation. However promises should be reserved for truly meaningful things and not be used frivolously. Yes, promises involve risks, but for people committed to living an integrous life should not fear making them. When others promise things, you are putting your trust in them to not let you down. That is what a promise is all about; it is declaring your personal integrity by assuring others that they can put their trust in you to follow through.

I now realize that my father’s cowardly statement is merely a copout. It is a way out of commitment; a way out of conviction, out of responsibility and a way out of inspiring confidence. From the age of sixteen I promised myself, that I would not be afraid to make and keep promises. I live by the ideas expressed by Hannah Arendt, “Promises are the uniquely human way of ordering the future, making it predictable and reliable to the extent that is humanly possible.” I know I am only human and not perfect, but I live a confident, life filled with integrity because I know I can trust myself to keep my word. Others around me know that they can trust me too. I believe that promises are commitments that should be made only if they are intended to be kept. Nevertheless they should be made.