It seems to be a very common experience that making a commitment to anyone, in any direction, freaks out many people nowadays. Engage in anything but a commitment. In effect, commitments seem to be generally regarded as tantamount to suicide, or at the very least, are viewed as traps to avoid. Note that all four of these categories of commitments are falling apart in our current society:
- Commitment to marriage. We would rather cohabit indefinitely, or drop the difficult intimate relationships we have been in.
- Commitment to parent children (or even to birth them). We find them a consummate irritation, from the womb to the tomb.
- Commitment to eldercare. We prefer to abandon them.
- Commitment to pay our bills. We prefer to make the other guy pick up our slack.
Our behaviors belie that we view commitments as downright scary, a wrong direction for the exertions of our wills. Modern man prefers the slushy place of ambiguity in relation to all other people and contracts.
Some people are apartment hoppers, living in rentals without paying rent just long enough to get kicked out, and then leaving to go do it again somewhere else, artfully escaping any fiscal responsibility. People shack up, or live in “open” marriages with several people, simultaneously. Students demand to go to colleges well beyond their means, get there at any cost, and are surprised and incensed when the bill comes due. Adult business bankruptcies abound. Parents give over their children to be raised and schooled by others. And we hide our elderly in institutions, abandoning them.
Anything goes. Parameters of any sort, in any direction, suffocate our “free” spirits. We want to be able to drink all we want, buy all we want, entertain ourselves all we want, play all we want, work to climb the corporate ladder, etc.—all without being tied down to any relationship, in any direction.
Why do we so desperately eschew commitments? What is it, exactly, that we are afraid of? We know full well that it is a commitment of our future self to a course of direction, and that seems insurmountable to the comforts of our immediate self and its increasing lust for self-soothing. We “handle” our future by refusing to go there—by buttressing ourselves with ways “out” in every direction.
Instinctively, we know that all commitments are a plunge into the unknown, and we simply have no faith in ourselves (and no God to help us, since we dispensed with Him) to “go there.” Instinctively, we know that it will require self-denial, at some level—and we must not deny ourselves.
The Enemy of our soul has broadcast nothing but bad press about commitment. He has convinced us not to go there. He has made “gulping at the thought” the correct response.
What, however, might be hidden in the idea and practice of commitment that was set there by the LOVER of our soul? Surely if it was built into the fabric of “the way life works” by the intelligent design of our Maker, if we jettison it might we lose something that is germane to our happinesses? What if we were to receive commitment as a gift from our God, and lean on Him for the power to do it, all the way through it?
Let’s hold on a minute with that idea of not wanting to deny ourselves. Strangely, if we look closely, we see that cities, communities, churches, marriages all grow out of the fertilizer of self-sacrifice. Without sacrifice we cannot have community. We won’t have any. We find ourselves replacing all community with a dysfunctional conglomerate of isolated individuals, running helter-skelter in all directions at once, loaded with the baggage of endless “personal rights.”
When looked at a little closer, self-denying commitment has silver linings all over the place. When we embrace commitment as a necessary part of human life, we find that it gives us a clear and distinct GPS to one path—forsaking all others, for example—that in turn helps shore up and define our own identity. Conversely, traveling infinite paths in all directions eventually leads us to personal chaos and floundering, because soon we find multiple personal desires at cross-purposes. Falling in love with three people equally, at once, leads us into a nightmare of what to do with tonight. Wanting a relationship with a man but not with a pregnancy with his child leads us to confusion on the way to the abortion clinic. Wanting a classy car but disdaining the self-denial to achieve the finances to purchase one leaves us in a quandary of conflicting self. Wanting to belong to a family, but not wanting the family to belong to us when it ages, plunges us into conflict with ourselves.
When, alternatively, our paths are well-defined by our commitments, the question then becomes what will we do, given this course and no other? What our character is made of becomes evident when we take that path. Commitment brings self-realization; we discover who we really are. Modern man would rather stay out of that spotlight. We would rather walk in delusion about our true identity. We prefer to live in an opium den of what we might have been, rather than experience who we are.
The parameters of limited time, limited finances, limited space and limited relationships (we each have a web of individuals into which we were born, and into which circumstances thrust us) all force our personal priorities to be expressed. And, incomprehensibly, and progressively, somehow, someway, we emerge as better souls, now with depth, in the middle of such limitations. We become—we are in fact, actualized—amidst the limitations.
Of course, if we are not interested in “becoming” or “emerging”, we’ll prefer no fences, and no parameters . We will feast upon delusions and virtual realities and there we will sit, banqueting upon hot air, growing fatter, and fatter, and fatter, until we become big blobs of nothing.