Making and Breaking Promises

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I had the honor of officiating a wedding this last weekend, giving me a chance to reflect on the idea of promises and vows. What promises can/should we make to others and to ourselves? Which ones might be overreaching or setting us up to disappoint?

I’ve never felt comfortable with a vow that ended with “til death do us part.” Maybe this is because I don’t believe in adults committing to stay in a relationship no matter what, without any conditions. While the love between parent and child is the closest most of us get to the experience of unconditional love, between two consenting adults it’s healthy to have agreements for the relationship to continue and thrive.

Those vows or agreements can include respect, love, and compassion for our partner. But how many of us remain perfect with these vows? One of the most important vows is the one to tell the truth when we make a mistake or hurt each other’s feelings out of anger or hurt, to apologize without expectation of our partner’s forgiveness, and to practice forgiving ourselves. It feels to me that if we include the vows of love, respect, compassion, truth, and amends, we have a better chance of making it until death do we part.

I love the poem below by Hafiz, the Sufi poet, because it acknowledges the optimism and joy with which we may make promises but also the reality that we are students in Classroom Earth.

First there is wonderful laughter
And probably precious tears
And a hundred sweet promises
No one can ever keep
But the universe is delighted and amused
You once tried to be a saint.
What happens when your soul
Begins to awaken in this world
To our deep need to love
And serve the Friend?
O, the Beloved will send you
One of His wonderful, wild companions!

Let me know your thoughts.

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5 Responses to “Making and Breaking Promises”

  1. Chris Whitby says:

    This is perhaps my favorite poem by Hafiz. Thank you Jane for sharing this.
    ” The universe is delighted and amused you once tried to be a saint..”-speaks so clearly of the importance holding compasson for ones self. It is so human to get discouraged at the start of new a journey, and despair.

    Whether it is a new comittment to a spiritual path, meditation practice or new sobriety etc, the important thing is to keep in mind slipping is ok, and gently with humor (eventually joy) we can return to our effort; thus keeping the heart soft, and open for change. Who knows, with such an opening, what the beloved will send your way ?!

  2. Jane Straus says:

    Chris, thank you for responding with your own depth of experience with this. Indeed, who knows what the beloved will send your way…care to share?

  3. Chris Whitby says:

    Deep in the Costa Rica Jungle on the Osa Penninsula after having an epiphany which led to my moving to Costa Rica. I was alone, building my wooden home and rebuilding my spiritual home. ..Deep into my new found teachers such as Rumi,Hafiz and Jack Kornfield, among others,….surfing alone everyday in my personal paradise on earth-I unknowingly at my half century mark was finally ready to be truly open for a gift from the beloved.

    That gift came in the form of a single wild companion named Phoebe Vreeland, trekking alone in the wilds of Corcovado Park-As a result of this opening of my heart-I am living back here in Marin, married to her in a beautiful ceremony performed by you, Jane, and we have a beautiful 3 month old girl, Satya May- Thank you Jane, for the wonderful expressions of your heart on these pages ,and for “walking the walk” in your daily interactions.

  4. Chris Whitby says:

    PS- I Read this wonderful Hafiz poem as a part of my vow to my wife at our wedding.

  5. Jane Straus says:

    Thank you, Chris, for sharing the Hafiz poem and your powerful story of open-heartedness with everyone.

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