Commitment helps you do things you wouldn’t otherwise dream of doing. It also requires that you give priority to a lot of things other than yourself.
When I think about all the many blessings that have come my way in life, nothing seems to match the ones that have come from the commitments I’ve made and kept. Commitments are always difficult to keep and should never be entered into lightly. And there are certainly cases in which, for the welfare of all, a commitment must necessarily be broken. But cautiously making and fervently honoring a commitment can be a one of life’s most rewarding experiences.
It was no small commitment to pursue a graduate degree in psychology. Many of my colleagues jokingly agree that never does a person give so much and for so long for so little as to psychologists who spend many more years in training than most other mental health professionals and don’t necessarily reap better financial rewards for all their efforts. Even medical school takes less time, and the financial rewards are much greater. But, most of my colleagues not only love their profession and their work but also have no regret for the choice they made. Many of my classmates did buckle under the ordeal, eventually falling into the status of “ABD” (completing all training but failing to complete their doctoral dissertation, thus the term “all but dissertation”). I was tempted to do the same. But somehow I managed to persevere to the end, secure a doctoral degree, and make professional psychology a career. The results of making and keeping that commitment still profoundly affect my life.
Marriage is another one of those endeavors that can become profoundly enriched just by honoring the commitment. That’s not to say that there aren’t some situations in which a commitment too hastily or blindly made shouldn’t be abandoned. Many a person has felt unhealthily “obliged” to remain in a destructive, abusive, situation because they believed they couldn’t renege on a promise. I once knew a woman who came from a fundamentalist background and who was even exculpated by her minister and urged to leave a horrendous situation but who still had qualms about making the choice — in large part because of an excessive sense of obligation to keep the commitment she made. But I’ve also known many other individuals who were far too quick to jump ship just because the seas on which they and their partners were sailing became rocky or because they just weren’t having as much fun as they thought they were entitled to (and many were just as quick to jump on board before the waters were suitably tested). These folks truly missed the boat on many dimensions. They missed the opportunity to bask in the long-term payoffs of maintaining and nurturing a long-term relationship.
Commitment helps you do things you wouldn’t otherwise dream of doing. It allows you to tend to the most ungodly mess in a diaper, to say “no” when the little person you’re saying it to pouts and screams and claims you must hate them, and to not only remember your wedding anniversary but every reason why you entered the relationship you celebrate. Commitment requires that you give priority to a lot of things other than yourself. It doesn’t require that you lose yourself entirely, only that you temper your more selfish and petty urges and challenge yourself to rise above them. Commitment has the power to help you grow and to be a better person.
It’s sobering to think of how many people in my life have made commitments of their time, love, and energy to me, and how those commitments impacted my life. And it’s probably true that we have to experience the power of commitment first hand to get a sense of its value. So, as a helping professional, I’ve always found it edifying when anyone I’ve worked with managed to find the value and power of commitment.