Tuesday, August 2, 2016

On Promises by Carolyn

"We live in a society that over-promises and under-delivers."

I can't take credit for the line - it's from an insurance commercial that airs on my favorite radio station - but it is so true.

That line has made me think about promises.

Merriam Webster's dictionary defines a promise as "a statement telling someone that you will definitely do something or that something will definitely happen in the future".

Watching the conventions put on by the Republicans and the Democrats has reminded me, once again, that no president has ever been able to fulfill the promises made on the campaign trail. Let's be realistic - if it were that easy to fix all of our nation's problems, someone would have done it long ago. If we buy into the rhetoric offered by  politicians, we are destined to feel the disappointment that comes with over-promising and under-delivering. "Promises and pie crust are made to be broken." (Jonathan Swift)

Likewise the constant bombardment of advertisements for products that promise us perfect health, a long life, flawless skin, lustrous hair, sparklingly white teeth, and miraculous weight loss - all without much effort on our own part. Another instance of over-promising and under-delivering. Yet we keep falling for it. "Promise, large promise, is the soul of an advertisement." (Samuel Johnson)

Parents (or spouses or friends) sometimes do the same thing. Maybe they are busy with work or distracted by something in their own lives. "We'll do something special next weekend, Sweetie," they promise. Next weekend comes. Busy-ness happens again. "I'll make it up to you, honey, I promise" becomes the continual refrain. Childhood (or the relationship) passes in a cycle of over-promising and under-delivering. Trust withers.

Our society builds up marriage as a promise of happiness. Despite our constant real-life observations or experiences that should lead us to realize marriage is not all sunshine and roses, we are still tempted to believe that it is. Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-marriage. I hope someday to be married again. I just know that marriage is hard work. A daily state of bliss is not guaranteed. Our culture puts out hype about living happily ever after that over-promises and under-delivers. "You promise heavens free from strife." (William Johnson Cory)

Money. There's another instance of over-promising and under-delivering. We think, "If I just had more money, I'd be happy." or "If I could buy (insert desired item here), everything would be great." Studies have shown that people with more money are no more happy than people with less money. Why do we keep believing the deceitful promise our society makes us that money equals happiness? The only thing money gives us is choices. Again, don't think I am anti-money. I hope someday to have some, along with the choices it brings. But money or no money, my happiness is up to me, not my bank account. "But it is pretty to see what money will do." (Samuel Pepys)

Here's the flip side of the coin: not only do we need to be aware of people and products and circumstances that over-promise and under-deliver, we must also be on guard against being the one who makes the promises and does not follow through. Let our "yes" mean yes and our "no" mean no; let our actions, not our words, speak our intent.