I have had reason to question the validity of a person’s promise or the weight of his words this week hence my mind and heart have been moved to write about it.

Unreliable: Untrustworthy, not able to be relied upon.

Something inside of us feels the need to believe the words spoken to us, the promises given to us - it is the inevitable belief in the happy ending we read in fairy tales, the insatiable need to feel loved or valued enough! Perhaps it is the yearning to want to believe the best of others, to believe that their intentions are good and solid. Maybe we who hear them feel just that little more important should someone promise us something.


“O, that's a brave man! He writes brave verses, speaks brave words, swears brave oaths, and breaks them bravely,” ― William ShakespeareAs You Like It

Let us have a look at 2 reasons why people make promises. Some make promises to placate, soothe or comfort. Let’s call our ‘promise-maker’ Jack. One day Jill was sad, upset and disappointed so Jack focused on Jill’s feelings at that moment and used a promise to make her feel better. Later, when Jill started feeling better, more relaxed or her stress level is down, Jacks reason for the promise disappeared so he didn’t carry through. He doesn’t feel like he has broken his word because the promise at the time served its purpose. Jacks promise is like an ice cream – he gave Jill what she needed to make her feel better.  Jacks motives are not to be a decent stand-up guy; he does what he needs to do to keep the peace at that particular moment.

Now Peter is a man who likes to keep his promises, because it represents a level of integrity and he sees himself as an honourable man. He prides himself in being someone who keeps his word.  When Peter promises something to Jane he feels good about himself when he carries it through, he takes his promises seriously. Jane feels loved and appreciated when Peter makes good on his word and Peter’s self-esteem grows and he feels good too.

I'm sure you have had someone promise something to you and they didn’t follow through. How did you feel? Did you feel betrayed or cheated? Were you sad and disappointed, maybe you felt unworthy? Did you take the blame and feel that you were the idiot for believing in them in the first place? Did you wonder if you are ever going to trust that persons word again because in fact that person lied to you, didn’t they? If you have been the type of person that makes promises and doesn’t follow through I'm sure that you felt EXTRA hurt when the tables were turned.

I can understand for sure that if unforeseen circumstances arose that hindered you from keeping your promise, a broken promise is definitely not your fault. Say Peter promised Jane that his flight would arrive at 6 and a strong wind delayed take-off by 1 hour, it is something beyond his control. Peter, already proven to be a man of his word will undoubtedly be forgiven and Jane’s trust in him would be intact.If Jack promised Jill that he would be home at 6 every evening and he constantly breaks his promises to Jill, why should she believe him every time, knowing he will only turn up at 10 with all sorts of excuses. She believed him before and was disappointed time after time. Jill knows him now as a liar.

You see, when you break your word or promise, however small or insignificant it may seem you, it tends to send a message that you cannot be trusted. A broken promise whatever the motive behind the making of that promise can damage a relationship and your reputation. Each time you give your word or make a promise you are actually putting your honour and reputation on the line. By uttering that statement you actually ask by implication that others place their trust in you. You put yourself forward as someone who has integrity and you would not let others down. So if you are a promise-breaker don’t be surprised if your credibility is doubted. Don’t be hurt if your reputation is ruined.  Don’t wonder why people question your motives and if you want to please them in that moment.  I suggest you find other ways of doing it other than making promises you have no intention of keeping. To those that are at the receiving end of the ‘Jacks’ of this world I suggest you take a long hard look at his motives, when he makes the promises and at what point. If he is doing it to protect himself from blame or get out of responsibilities, then he will never be someone who you can rely on and you will not be a priority in his life. If he is doing it to calm the raging waters then point it out to him and suggest other ways that he can please you or make you happier without putting your trust in him at stake. You will also save yourself from the sadness and anger that wells up when the promises are broken