“The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.”
Sometimes people hurt us. Sometimes they do it intentionally. Most of the time they don’t. The Catholic Church teaches that there are sins of omission and commission. Sins of omission are the unintentional ones, like forgetting a commitment to someone or neglecting someone close to you because you got too busy. Again, these things aren’t intentional, but they hurt others just the same. Then there are the sins of commission, such as lying or being lazy (yes, I consider laziness a sin, a huge sin). While we may not mean to hurt others with them, we do.
What do we do if we are the injured party? We have a few options.
First, we can strike back. We can hurt the person who hurt us. The results of this are seen on all levels, from children to street gangs to nations fighting. I’ve never seen it work. Even if one party “wins,” there is still the residue of bad feelings on both sides. I remember getting in a fight with my little brother once, when we were both kids. I won and I felt terrible about it all day.
In addition, when revenge or retaliation are used, the fighting never really stops. In the Middle East, in Ireland, and in some ways, in an equally horrific level, between family members, the fighting just goes on and on interminably. Revenge never satisfies and it never solves.
A second option is to end the relationship. Sometimes this works, but only if it’s done from a place of inner peace. There are times in which a relationship, whether personal or professional, is not healthy and will never become healthy. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of being a bad fit. In the past, I’ve left jobs, not because they were terrible jobs, but because they just weren’t right for me. I’ve also left jobs because of abusive conditions or employers. And I’ve also been fired from jobs because I wasn’t a good fit for the employer. In all three cases, leaving was a relief.
Personal relationships are similar. Some we leave because they aren’t a good fit. Others are abusive and should be left for safety’s sake. And some leave us. Again, in all three cases, the ending of these relationships is ultimately, if not immediately, a relief.
Difficulties are not always a reason to leave, because they can usually be resolved, given time, patience, and communication. Once I had a job that I absolutely loved. But then things started going badly. Inevitable difficulties arose, one after the other. I felt humiliated, unwanted, and disappointed. I found that I didn’t like going to work any longer. But I gave it time and I worked on what I could fix in myself and in my work habits. Soon, though not immediately, I saw a shift in my attitude. The job got better. It wasn’t the same, but it was better. Though difficulties are inevitable, they don’t have to be debilitating. Instead they can be stepping-stones to a greater level of intimacy and trust.
A third option is to do or say nothing but surrender inwardly to resentment, bitterness, or despair. Like revenge, this rarely works. If I’m not being honest about my feelings, it will come out one way or another. It might affect my health. I might find myself less motivated. I might unintentionally say hurtful things to others or lose my temper over small incidents. There’s not much more to say about this than to recommend dealing honestly, thoroughly, and quickly with the problem. A former employer once said to me, “The truth is the shortest story.” It’s also the shortest path to freedom and healing.
A fourth option is to take a break from the problem. This might mean a day off, a vacation, or a nap. Time away from the problem can give us perspective. This works best if it’s seen as a genuine break and not a running away from the problems.
Finally, and this is the option I’ve chosen for what I’m dealing with, there’s commitment. Commitment is liberating. Commitment says, “I am actively choosing to stay this course, to make things improve, to never quit, no matter what because I love and believe in you/Purpose/my work/God or whatever it is I am committed to.”
I’ve had disappointments and setbacks lately. I’ve wanted to quit. Recently, I struggled with my commitment to writing, because I felt it wasn’t going anywhere. I felt stuck and confused and I produced less. It was a difficult time. But then I realized that I love my Muse and that I can’t live without her. Even if I spend my life alone and unread by most of the world, even if I have to wait to see the results I’d like, even if my Muse herself seems to be testing me, I am committed to staying the course. I’ve also realized that there have been more good times than bad times and that I can’t let a setback or two divert me from my course.
What does commitment do for us?
First, it is, as I said, liberating. We are free, not to choose an impossible multitude of things, but one thing, and one thing well. I can improve, study, work hard, discard what doesn’t work, experiment, and have fun. Commitment is not only liberating; it’s focusing and it’s fun. Writing is fun. Being with my Muse is fun. When it isn’t, I keep working anyway and soon it becomes fun again.
Commitment is about the present and so it allows me to let go of the past. If someone hurt me and I’m committed to that person, then commitment enables me to forgive and recognize that the hurt wasn’t intentional. Forgiveness is not the goal of commitment; it’s the happy by-product of it. I feel compassion and love and…well…a greater sense of commitment.
Because commitment is about the present, it causes me to focus on my work. All I want to do is be in my Purpose. Things outside of my Purpose hold little or no interest for me. That doesn’t mean I don’t fight distractions or procrastination, but the fact that I fight them means I haven’t given up; I am still in my Purpose. I am still moving forward. I am continuing to Get Started and Keep Going. I am free. I am committed.