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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

On Making & Keeping Promises

Think of one promise you have kept for a long time and one promise that was broken. Why is it important to you to keep a promise? How did (or do) you feel about a broken promise? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1076).

Interrogation by torture does not provide reliable results because people have great incentive to say whatever their torturers want to hear. Some promises are like that in a way. Our arms are being twisted mercilessly and we give in by making a promise that we have no real intention of keeping. This is a common experience in child-parent relations in which the child insists and will not let the matter rest until the parent gives in with a promise. The child seems to be asking for a freely entered contract between parent and child when in fact the parent has no choice other than to at least superficially agree. So then the value of this “verbal contract” is dubious. This can also be the case in business relationships. For resulting performance can be either earnest and meticulous or lax. That is, if I have contracted with a party to perform some work on my house but during negotiations was childish and had no eye to fairness but was irrationally selfish, then I should not be surprised if later job performance suffers; for although my demands and expectations were unreasonable and detached from realty, the performance must always conform to it. 

This phenomenon repeatedly occurs in international affairs when agreements lack genuine mutuality. The stark reality is that performance will be based on reality regardless of ideological conceits. Later, no amount of self-righteous tantrums and indignation on our part can hide the fact that from the outset we made childish demands.

One lasting promise that we should make is to keep negotiations real; that our demands and expectations not be childish, but rather based upon maturity and mutuality.

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