I’m the King of Vows - boldly proclaiming what I will and won’t do - and have worn the crown for almost as long as I can remember. I’m not talking about the good vows, either (like saying, “I do!”), I’m referring to the times we speak before we think.
After a string of bad relationships in my twenties, all with blonde-haired women, I swore I would never date another woman with blonde hair.
My wife has blonde hair.
After shutting down my failing business, I swore I’d never own a business again. I didn’t want the responsibility, the headaches, or to worry about where the next dollar was coming from.
Seven years later, I started another business.
Years ago, I got into a heated disagreement with a so-called friend. This person was a gossiper who talked negatively about everyone when they weren’t around, including me. I promised myself I would never talk to that person again, and planned to use that disagreement to sever the ties.
We remained friends for another eight years.
Do you see a pattern here?
I’ve made my share of vows to myself and others. I broke some as quickly as the words left my mouth. There were others I truly intended to keep but, for one reason or another, I didn't follow through.
After a while, people around me, especially the ones who were closest, responded to my latest threats with the same reaction. "Yeah, right," they said. I imagine I made other vows and they just rolled their eyes when I wasn’t looking.
Maybe you didn't follow through because you spoke too soon, or had every intention of doing what you said you were going to do. But it looks the same to everyone else, and a pattern of empty threats eventually destroys your credibility.
It took a long time for me to figure that out.
I can think of a few reasons we make vows when we shouldn’t - most of mine were fueled by pride. It may have been because someone had taken advantage of me, or I looked stupid for making a bad decision. Regardless, the reaction was the same - take an oath that it would never happen again.
Truthfully, we shouldn’t be making threats at all. While we can get caught up in the heat of the moment, it would serve us well to think about what we will do - and what we won’t - before we start announcing it to the world.
If you decide you are, or are not, going to do something, then do it. Once you follow through, people will notice.
There will be times when we just can’t deliver. That’s part of being human. But, if we’re careful with our words, we may get more grace from others when we don’t back our vows up.
And more respect when we do.
"Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one."
(Matthew 5:37 NLT)