Seeking closure for promises unkept


A promise, a simple promise at that, is far different from a legally binding contractual obligation. A promise is a word exchanged between two or more parties, and even if only to one’s self, idealized or spoken with the truthful and good intent of fulfilling it at a certain date. A promise is one that is usually made on a deeply personal level.

A contract, on the other hand, is a signed and attested document that states an agreement between two or more parties who may be involved, in the fulfillment of a deal, usually and typically in a business scenario. A contract is often made between persons representing business or legal entities, largely detached from a personal standpoint.

Both a promise and a contract involves a certain degree of commitment to fulfill the terms of what has been understood and agreed upon. However, I differentiate between a promise and a contract because, no matter the scale, a promise virtually entails no consequence other than one’s bothersome conscience and the breakdown of relationships between those involved, while a contract will certainly cover a set of harsh negative punishments among individuals within the legal parties.

I would like to talk about a promise, not a contract. While both promises and contracts have been dealt with extensively, I’d like to add my take on the word “promise.”

About three months ago, somebody made me a bright promise. It was the kind of promise that was, well, promising. That promise made me happy. It is the kind that propped me up in a major way. The one who made me the promise sounded so very sincere, and I believed it—wholeheartedly, in fact. There was no reason why I should ever doubt. Every single word said made perfect sense, and therefore, I was convinced. Was I blinded? Did the glitter of the promise make me not see the impossibility of the promise?

Well, in my judgement, I trusted the person who delivered that promise, and I held on to it. As a matter of fact, I worked very hard and delivered my end of the bargain, not only to show my sincerity, but to make clear to the other person that I take the promise seriously and was looking forward to its fulfillment. In other words, I fostered all the right conditions and I’ve delivered everything needed to deliver so that when the right time comes, when it is ripe, I can collect on that promise.

The promise made to me was categorically unfulfilled. And I was devastated. In fact, I’m trying to recover from it. I don’t quite know how, but I’m sure I will. There is always a way out of it, that much at least I know.

This is not the first time that I have been on the receiving end of an unfulfilled promise. There have been countless times before when promises made to me have gone unfulfilled. Most of them I have forgotten, consigned to the dustbin of memory, but there are quite a few that still lingers to this day, no matter how much I try to forget them.

Because I believe that all promises are sacred, at least, that’s how I have come to view it, I do my best to always fulfill whatever promise I make. As a matter of fact, I have a running list in my mind of all the promises I’ve made, and I will deliver upon that promise. Right now, there are about less than a dozen promises I have yet to keep. And each day, I inch towards the fulfillment of each one of those promises. Perhaps it is not hyperbole to state that I will move heaven, earth and even hell, to make sure that when the right time comes, I will fulfill the promises I’ve made. For one thing, it will not do me any good not to keep them.

I will be the first to admit that promises can be very hard to keep. And I’ve left unfilled a few promises myself. In fact, I must categorically say that there have been quite a few that I have regretted not fulfilling, which I’ve long ago apologized for and paid for dearly. But most often, because of certain circumstances, it takes me a little longer than usual to fulfill it. Since I value the trust of those whom I’ve given my promise to, there is nothing for me to do but to do it. In the same way, I value the trust I invest on those who made promises to me as well. If nothing else, I operate, and we all operate, on a complex set of promises based on varying trust and respect for each other.

If you come to think of it, there are promises, many, many promises in fact, that can actually be left unfulfilled, and I don’t mind it at all. These are the kind of small promises that doesn’t impact our lives, yours and mine, in any way. But then, there are promises that may look small, and yet, we are captive to its powerful sway.

As a rational person, I see that promises can be neatly categorized—one that can be done or not done without any grave consequence, and one that, if not done, can result to devastating consequences not only on a personal level but on so many other levels where things can literally tumble down quickly like in a domino.

Perhaps, people are generally unaware that when they make a promise, they don’t quite understand its consequence. They could, in fact, be totally unaware of the gravity of their promise, and so, are unable to distinguish between the promises that should be kept as opposed to promises can be let alone and forgotten.

We all have our own little ways of dealing with, and surviving, promises—both stated and expected. But no matter how we do it, it’s really the big ones that get to us. Yes, in both terms stated, and expected.

In the end, a promise that is given, and a promise that is unfulfilled, is open-ended. It is a state that doesn’t have a closure. And for all intents and purposes, that’s all we really need: closure.

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