by Gladys Diaz
This weekend I broke a promise, and it’s been quite the learning experience to see how one broken promise can lead to a ripple effect of results and consequences, and how this can seriously impact our relationships.
As part of his responsibility to his Cub Scout Pack, my son has to sell popcorn in front of a store for 4 hours during the popcorn sale period. They refer to it as each Cub doing his “fair share.” I signed him up for two 2-hour shifts. I realized I probably would not be able to make the second shift and mentioned it to his Cub Master. Unfortunately, I did not follow up and communicate for which time I would like to reschedule, and I completely forgot that I was supposed to take my son to complete his second shift this past Sunday.
As soon as I woke up, I saw a missed calendar reminder and an email from the Scout Master 30 minutes after we were supposed to have arrived! I immediately jumped out of bed, told my son to get dressed, and began emailing and texting anyone I could think of to try to communicate that we were on our way.
Unfortunately, we were too late.
Two other families failed to show up, so the sales were canceled for the day, which meant my and all of the other boys who had signed up for the day missed out on their opportunity to give their fair share to the Pack, and the Cub Master resigned, which means our Pack does not have a leader at the helm and all 20 or so families are being impacted.
To say that I felt horrible is an understatement. I contacted the Cub Master and his family and apologized for disrespecting him and his family. I apologized to my son for forgetting to communicate a new day and time, had to comfort him while he cried when he learned that the Cub Master was resigning (he is wonderful man who has done so much for our Pack). Today I sent an email to the entire Pack apologizing for my part in all of this.
The apologies were received well, but the impact of the broken promise is still there. My son, the other boys and their parents, and an entire Pack were impacted all because of one broken promise.
Once I was able to forgive myself, I looked to see what the lesson in all of this was and how I could use it in my own life and as something I could share with you regarding how this lesson applies to dating and relationships. Here are a few of the lessons I learned:
Whether the broken promise is regarding something you promised someone else, or yourself, the lack of integrity will impact the relationship.
Lesson 1: A broken promise – big or small – can have a big impact. Whether the broken promise is regarding something you promised someone else, or yourself, the lack of integrity will impact the relationship. The trust in the relationship is impacted, and the ripple effect can extend beyond just you and the person to whom the promise was made.
For example, if you’ve promised yourself and your partner that you are going to do whatever it takes to restore the intimacy in the relationship, and, yet, you speak disrespectfully to him, withhold love or tenderness out of anger, or continue bringing up past mistakes, you are breaking your promise to yourself, your partner, and, if you have a family, to your kids and extended family.
If you’re single, and you’ve promised yourself that you’re going to make changes so that you can have the relationship your heart desires, but you’ve continued repeating the same patterns and behaviors that have been blocking you from attracting love into your life – out of fear, pride, or the unwillingness to work through and break through them – then you’ve broken your promise to yourself, and you’re no closer to having that loving relationship you want and deserve (not to mention the impact it’s having on the man who’s waiting to step into your life when you’re ready!).
Taking responsibility simply means recognizing the role you played in what happened, owning it, and then doing what you can to restore your integrity.
Lesson 2: Be willing to accept responsibility. Several people were so kind in letting me know that my actions were not the only contributing factor to everything that happened on Sunday. The fact that we didn’t show up to sell the popcorn was one in a series of things that led to the Cub Master’s decision. I knew they were trying to help me feel better, and I appreciated that. I also realized that I needed to be 100% responsible for the role I played, because that’s the only thing for which I can be responsible.
Taking responsibility is not about blaming or shaming yourself (although, I’ll admit I did a little of that). Taking responsibility simply means recognizing the role you played in what happened, owning it, and then doing what you can to restore your integrity. In this case, I chose to apologize and re-promise, which meant I rearranged my schedule so that my son could sell popcorn at 4:30pm that day and fulfill on his commitment to do his fair share for the Pack. Apologizing and restoring integrity will create a space for trust and intimacy to be restored in a relationship.
Taking responsibility and apologizing is part of what we can do to try to restore integrity, trust and intimacy. But, ultimately, it’s up to the other person to choose if and when they are willing to accept the apology.
Lesson 3: An apology doesn’t make everything “okay.” I apologized to everyone I could. I accepted 100% responsibility for the role I played in how everything turned out. And, still, the results remained – kids didn’t get to fulfill on their promise, the Pack still doesn’t have a leader, and there may be other consequences that result from this. My son also didn’t accept my apology right away, which was his prerogative. He was upset and I just needed to respect that he wasn’t ready to stop being upset yet.
The same holds true in our relationships. Taking responsibility and apologizing is part of what we can do to try to restore integrity, trust and intimacy. But, ultimately, it’s up to the other person to choose if and when they are willing to accept the apology. And, even if they do, the consequences will be what they will be, and we need to be willing to accept them as such.
Of course, the best path to follow would be to only make promises we will keep and to keep all of our promises. Unfortunately, none of us is perfect and we may not always do that. So, for those times when you don’t honor your word, it’s best to accept that the results are what they are, take responsibility for the role you played, and restore your integrity as quickly as possible, realizing that, while it may not “fix” everything, it’s the best you can do – and that’s really all you can do!
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