Promise Keeper, Promise Breaker, Promise Shaper

Warning… I’m sure some of you won’t like this so much. I’m going to go a place that can be unsettling.

Have you ever had someone break a promise to you? Maybe a clear promise, maybe a promise hidden within expectations…….. Of course. I’m sure you have. It’s part of being human. We all experience the disappointment, the pain of broken promises.

Have you ever broken a promise? And how did you feel when you did that? Avoidance, or maybe shame or guilt?…….. I’m sure you have. It too is part of being human. We give our word, with our best intention, and sometimes we don’t follow through, we forget, or something distracts us, or we simply make another choice.

I know we’re supposed to be Promise Keepers. It gives all of us a sense of security, that people around us will be true to their word, will stand by us.  Yet so often I’ve been hurt by people who don’t keep their promises to me. The reality is that we are Promise Breakers.

What if we accepted that about ourselves? Didn’t run away from it. Didn’t hide it from others?

What if… what if we/I held a different perspective, one that accepts that promises will be broken? Jan Richardson’s poem on Epiphany speaks of being on a journey and part of the path being strewn with the scattered pieces of broken promises. She says we keep walking. One step at a time. Eyes on the Star overhead that will lead us home.

I realized that I’ve seen promises as rules that must be kept rather than principles that can be lived. What if my promises could be based not on rules frozen in time, but on principles that may evolve as situations change? I could say, “I can’t keep the promise I made to you, but I can do or be this ….today. OR I can no longer live within the expectation that you hold of me but I can be…”

In my closest circle, I’ve experienced many divorces. All good people who made promises to each other and then discovered they couldn’t keep those promises. I imagine each of them felt shame, guilt and pain as the relationship fell apart around and in them. They didn’t seek to be a Promise Breaker, but the promises got shattered and scattered all over the path they were walking.

What if they, all of us, could see ourselves as Promise Shapers who say something like, “I’m so sorry that I can’t keep the promise I once made. Something has changed and now, today, I can be (a different way)….. with you.” What if we gave ourselves and others the freedom to shape a new promise? I know some will say “NO!” We need the solid foundation of promises, vows that anchor us so that when difficulties come, we will withstand the turbulence. Absolutely. We do need solid anchors. And we need room to recognize, accept and forgive the Promise Breakers and let them grow into Promise Shapers, making promises not based in rigidity but soaked in loving principles.

Here’s the link to Jan Richardson’s poem if you want to walk the Epiphany Walk with her. I wonder what you will hear.

Thank you for letting me think this through with you Gentle Reader. It is what I do in these blogs.

If this is interesting to you, please show support by sharing it with a friend. Let’s broaden the contemplative pathway.

Love and prayers


Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada (Founder)


3 thoughts on “Promise Keeper, Promise Breaker, Promise Shaper

  1. Children learn about promises early on. Think of their agonizing conversations – with tears and shrills –
    – you promised me ….you’d give that to me
    -I promise you ….if you give me that I will give …


  2. And, then we learn the promises when we are in
    Cubs and sparks and brownies … and, then there is the rainbow, and then and it goes on ….oh! And, Jesus’ promise… wow !!! This goes on !!!


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