It used to madden me when a particular friend would renege on plans we had set. For no good reason, in my mind. Oh, there was work to do at home, or she ran out of time, or needed to take a walk. The excuses sounded lame; I would have planned better to meet my commitment. She would also lightheartedly invite me to change our plans if I “got a better offer”, which was a little strange to me. After all, I was my word; keeping my agreement was honorable.
This friend turned out to be a good teacher for me. She taught me to explore the grey ground between keeping my promises to others and doing what feels right to myself. Devoted in her work and dedicated to her mother’s care before and during her demise, she is also a self-described hedonist or pleasure-seeker. Pleasure, she described, could be as simple as a cup of coffee on the porch with a newspaper. Just when you need it. Without guilt.
How do we best extend our dedication to others and still be true to ourselves?
Ask: What’s the real reason I made this commitment? To please someone else? To please myself? To impress someone? To gain someone’s appreciation? To give love? To get love? To not be without plans? Out of obligation? Pause to derive the essence behind your actions.
We all at some time have planned or committed and then regretted it. If there is resentment about an agreement you made, this is the exact time to assess your truth in the matter. Are you acting to move toward a good feeling, or acting to avoid feeling bad? Learn from your patterns to avoid regret.
Ask: What’s the truth behind my plan and how valuable is this plan to me? Has the value been expressed to those involved?
Ask: What’s behind my devotion, my allegiance, my loyalty, and is it known by the others? Surely, if it is, you are allowed to be faithful to yourself as well. Learn to express your needs as well.
Remind yourself: “Everyone is my teacher and my student.” You might teach others it’s ok to take a break from the weight of an obligation, too.
One day I did take my friend up on her offer. I postponed our plans to be by myself at a time when I needed just that. Without guilt.