Our culture often encourages us to make promises and take oaths. One of the most common public ceremonies in which long-term promises are made is the marriage ceremony.
On the other hand, a commonly held piece of advice is 'don't make promises you don't know you can keep'.
I would like to suggest the possibility that there is really only one set of promises that we can make with confidence in our ability to keep them, and that is the set of promises contained in our last will and testament.
Why do I suggest this? I suggest this because life is totally unpredictable. Not only can we never know what is going to happen in the future, we also cannot know who we or anyone else is going to be in the future. Personality is not fixed, but fluid, changing continually, depending on which thoughts pass through mind and which are identified with and believed.
Rare indeed is the person who is the same at 20 as he is at 30 and at 40 and at 50. Even the cells in our body are completely replaced every 7-10 years or so. So we aren't even physically the same person, let alone psychologically. Change is natural, inevitable, the only constant in life. Trying to resist this natural process will lead to serious psychological turmoil.
"It is the greatest mistake to think that man is always one and the same. A man is never the same for long. He is continually changing. He seldom remains the same even for half an hour."
G. I. Gurdjieff
If we take marriage vows as an example, there are two people who have no idea who either of them are going to be in a few years. They have no idea what either of them is going to want. They have no idea what the future has in store for them, and yet still they make promises to one another about how things are going to be in 10, 20, 30 or more years time.
All we can do with any genuine honesty is to describe the situation NOW. We can tell a lover how we feel NOW. We cannot predict the future, and because people try to do so, they very often find themselves living out a lie, trapped by their own promises. By all means celebrate wonderful love. By all means have a beautiful ceremony in which you tell your partner, family and friends about the intensity of your feelings now. But watch out for those promises, Nostradamus.
Why do we need these promises anyway? It is always because we have a fear of the unknown and seek security. But that security is a false security anyway. The future always remains unknown even if you pretend to yourself it is not.
Real security can come only from trust. When we genuinely trust, we do not need any promises. We do not need security. Asking for promises is a strong sign of mistrust. I am not just talking about mistrust in a partner, but more fundamentally, a mistrust in Life. When we let go of our need for false security and false certainty about the unknown future and trust Life completely, then we get a deep sense of real security which needs no promises from anyone.
Whatever happens, we trust that life will be OK, that it is always leading us wherever we need to go.
Trust asks for no promises and makes no promises. Trust strides fearlessly and honestly into the unknown, ready to face whatever the unknowable future has in store.
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