Promises We Keep
Most of us are risk averse. Our caution may be an evolutionary adaptation that has developed over thousands of years and is hardwired into the ancient cells of our brains. And yet our relationships ripple with words with white wings that carry our hearts on the sweet-scented breeze of hope. In trust there is the gloriousness of feeling in harmony with others as our hopes and wishes align. When promises are broken, our trust tumbles into the lacerating wretchedness of betrayal and disappointment. Our business partner inveigles our money. Our lover leaves us for our best friend. A family member behaves abominably.
A babble of busyness oscillates noisily and drowns out the silence that nourishes discernment and considered response. Too rushed, too distracted to pause, or to consider the impact of our thoughts, or our words before sending them out via disembodied text or social networking sites. We feel unheard, unvalued in those unguarded, entangled relationships that thread like filaments through the days of our lives.
We’re flippant and glib in our language today. “I’ll get back to you…” or the limp-wristed, “I’ll try to” … impotent projectiles that land without making a single sound. Yet they twist and tangle thoughts and leave blue bruises on the hearts of those who wait in silence.
We trust and yet the only thing we can be really certain of is the inevitability of our own death – and until we have experienced our dying, even that is an uncertainty. So we trust in past lives, or The Angels, or a place called Heaven where we will be greeted by our loved ones … we use talismans to allay our primal terror of annihilation, utter darkness of oblivion.
We will ourselves to trust. Our trust must withstand the corrosive acid of uncertainty. The alternative is too terrifying in a world that is and perhaps always has been uncertain and precarious. Writes Thomas Moore, “Imagine a trust in yourself, or another person, or in life itself, that doesn’t need to be proved or demonstrated, that is able to contain uncertainty. People sometimes put their trust in a spiritual leader and are terribly betrayed if that person then fails to live up to ideals. But a real trust of faith would be to decide whether to trust someone, knowing that betrayal is inevitable because life and personality are never without shadow. The vulnerability that faith demands could be matched by an equal trust in oneself, the feeling that one can survive the pain of betrayal.”
So we trust and promise and strengthen our spiritual mettle to withstand the inevitable slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Promise comes from the Latin, pro (forward) and mittere (to send) so as we guarantee, commit, pledge, honour, to send forward our desires or intentions out into the world, we promise. And when we promise we must trust. We trust the child minder to care for our toddler, we trust the mechanic to fix the strange-sounding rattle in our car and the pilot of the plane that transports us across great mountains and fathomless oceans, stitching space into hours and minutes.
Money is a symbol of promise and trust. We place our trust in stocks and shares, we place our trust in our governments and The Reserve Bank. In 2007 we trusted the banks to take care of our money. “Bank notes are simply promises to pay,” says historian Professor Niall Ferguson “Money is only worth what other people will give in exchange for it… lumps of clay, silver coins, it all depends on trust, on confidence. It’s all built on Trust.”
Professor David DeSteno is the author of The Truth About Trust: How It Determines Success in Life, Love, Learning and More writes, “ At the most basic level, the need to trust implies one fundamental fact: you’re vulnerable. The ability to satisfy your needs or obtain the outcomes you desire is not entirely under your control. . . . Perhaps most pivotally and uncomfortably, however, trust defines our relationship with ourselves – the quality of the inward gaze and the tangle of dignity, anxiety, uncertainty, and conviction with which we hold it.” Trust and Betrayal are bedfellows. When the trust in ourselves tosses and turns on the divided fork of conscience, we sleep fitfully at night.
So when we promise, we commit to action or a new thought. And when we trust, we find our own North Star to guide us – our religious or spiritual beliefs, a world view that offers solace or a sense of meaning, perhaps. Perhaps trust is a gift that is given, never exchanged. We are all connected like precious pearls strung on a thread of trust. And when we trust we take a risk as we enter the portal of another soul-directed experience and gaze inward with the promise to accept with grace and courage, the outcome.
Eleanor McEvoy – Promises We Keep