YEARS ago, when I first began to learn about the medicine path, my teachers would talk about commitment. About how, in the old ways, people would walk across country for days to get to the learnings that were so important to them.
What are we ever truly committed to these days? There’s so much on offer in the western world… so many sparkly opportunities to choose from, to pick up or put down at our leisure. When do we really, 100% make a commitment to do something and absolutely know we would go to the ends of the earth to make it happen?
A lot of things have changed since the old days. Where people would move heaven and earth to gain those teachings back then and then do all they could to absorb and integrate them, these days we can go to a workshop (which probably won’t be anywhere near as visceral and/or deep as the teachings delivered to, and by, our ancestors) and then choose to really learn the lessons, or opt to listen at a surface level and then file it away as an enjoyable few hours to chat about with pals over a cappuccino.
Let’s just look at that word for a moment: commitment. When I said I’d ‘commit’ to something, I ‘meant’ it. Commit-meant = commitment. Yet how often do we really mean it when we say we’ll do something? And if we meant it at the time, why do we try to back out later? I don’t, even for a second, believe anyone reading this will be purposely setting out to break promises or let people down, but the very fact that so many find it so easy to do just that says something about today’s world, doesn’t it? Have we all become just a little bit flaky?
In this modern day, throwaway society, we make promises and break them when something more exciting comes along (or because it’s grey and rain outside and we really can’t be bothered, or we’re just not in the mood, or our favourite reality show is about to start).
We create ‘harmless fibs’ to ease our personal burden and sometimes, when the time comes for us to really make that choice, we find a middle ground and sit there, wobbling about on that fence instead of committing to either option. We’re taught to multi-task as the norm, which means we’re never truly giving 100% of our attention, or commitment, to any one or any thing.
I wonder if the way in which we communicate has had some impact on our levels of commitment too. A quick glance at Facebook, for instance, can very quickly build a snapshot of a jolly, successful, perpetually happy person with hundreds – perhaps thousands – of ‘friends’. And in that case, we might forgive people for thinking they won’t be missed at a social gathering they’ve committed to attend, then decided they don’t really want to go to.
We’re creating images of people’s lives based on false information… you might say it’s a social distortion.
Don’t get me wrong here – I use Facebook as much as the next person, but I do know it often paints a false picture. Those ‘friends’ you see on people’s pages are often scattered all over the globe, and many of them have never even met. And the happy, smiling images you see? They’re just a snapshot – a second of life; it doesn’t mean that person is always positive and it doesn’t mean they won’t be hurt if you don’t show up for something you’ve committed to.
It’s so easy to use social media profiles to ease our guilt about breaking a commitment – ‘they have loads of pals, they won’t miss me’ or ‘heaps of other people said they were going to the party on the event page, so it’s okay if I don’t go’. That commitment you made is still there though – it’s still a big, fat, broken mess, and it’s still your responsibility.
What about commitment to ourselves?
In all of this, I reckon the biggest commitment we break – and the one that is most worrying – is the commitment we make to ourselves.
If we believe we come down to earth and put on these bodies to learn and grow, why aren’t we doing everything we can to do just that? Why aren’t we seizing every beautiful opportunity we’ve committed to and giving it 100%? And if we find ourselves occasionally wanting to break one of those promises we’ve made, why aren’t we learning from that so we don’t need to do it again?
When did our words begin to carry so little meaning? When did we stop placing value on them? When did the promises we made to ourselves stop being important? Why, oh why, do so many of us place so little value on ourselves that we truly believe we don’t matter enough for our commitments to make a difference?
They DO matter.
In today’s rich, get it quick society, where there’s so much on offer, so many opportunities, so many sparkly, exciting things to play with and within reach, where it’s become so easy to break promises, and where expectations can sometimes be so low, I sometimes think we’ve lost something that was really quite special.
Until next time,