Do you remember the old saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions?” Well, so is the road to relationship failure.
As a leader, I often hear people say that they will do this or that but they often do not follow through. In marriages I hear wives say, “Well, he promised.” And his response is, “I never really promised, but I intended to do it.”
When I was a kid my dad would tell me that he was going to take me out to have some fun. He loved me and really wanted to spend time with me. I believe it was his honest intention to do so, however, inevitability something work-related would come up and too often he didn’t do it. I would sit looking hopefully out the window until my mom made me go to bed with me protesting, “No Mom, he will be here any minute.” Over time I stopped looking.
You see, intentions that are spoken are really promises given, and promises unfulfilled erode trust. Unfulfilled promises place tremendous pressure on the relationships in your life. I know that many times our hearts are in the right place and we truly want to follow through on what we said. But life and busy-ness get in the way. However, explanations and excuses don’t restore a broken relationship. Only keeping your promises can do that. Do what you say you will do!
The point I am making is that relationships are harmed when we try to live them out on intentions alone. You may intend to do this or that, but always fall short and it erodes trust and ultimately the relationship. What we need to do is create an environment of promise by “letting our yes be yes, and our no be no”. By moving from saying we INTEND to do something to actually DOING it even without saying it, we will build trust.
You may be asking, “How do I do that?”
Often we find ourselves in an emotional situation relationally where someone is asking us to do or not do something and we allow the emotion of the moment to prompt us to agree. But this is now a promise. We may INTEND to do it, but without a real desire or commitment, more than likely it won’t happen. For example, a mom may ask her child to clean her/his room. To avoid the conflict of saying, “No” the child says, “Sure Mom” and then goes out to play. I think we’re all guilty of that one way or another, and relationships suffer.
Here are three ways to avoid having intentions become broken promises:
1. Don’t use intentions as gestures – Often we want someone to feel good and so we blurt out something like, “I’m going to take you out for dinner sometime.” We don’t really know when or where or if we can afford it, but in the moment we wanted to make the person feel good or impress them with our generosity. Then we forget about it even though we really intended to follow through. Sometimes we are just awkward about being asked to do something, like helping with the work bee at church. “Sure!” you say, “I’ll come and help.” Stop first and think. If you are not certain you can fulfill what is being asked of you, just say that you will try, but cannot promise. Or say, “Let me think about that.”
2. Don’t use intentions to justify – When you simply cannot fulfill a commitment, talk to the person ahead of time and tell him/her that you are sorry but you cannot do it. Ask to be released from the commitment. Don’t wait until there is a schedule conflict and after the event say, “Well, I intended to come, but I got busy.” If you make a rash commitment, correct it quickly.
3. Don’t vocalize intentions – If you have it on your heart to do something for someone, just go do it without announcement. The best times I had with my Dad was when he just showed up and said, “Let’s go! I got tickets for tonight’s game!” Don’t let your heart say things your actions can’t back up. By keeping your intentions to yourself, when things do get in the way, no harm is done and you can fulfill your private intentions another time. It will still be a surprise and a blessing.
Promises fulfilled are great building blocks for a healthy relationship so I encourage you to do a little ‘promise inventory’. What are some things you have promised and really intended to do but have not? Maybe it’s not too late to make it right. Simply make it happen and then apologize for not doing it sooner.
If you have some thoughts on this or experiences you would like to share please do so below. Remember until next time ‘Relationships Matter’.