“I’ll call you back this after I check on it…”
“I promise I’m not going to do that again…”
“I’ll do it by tomorrow…”
People regularly say things in the moment, often with good and pure intentions, and then fail to follow through on what they have said. While 'one-offs' of this sort are just part of living life with other human beings; over time, the accumulation of failed promises and lack of follow through can leave us edgy, and even, angry. Here are a few tips to help get back on track.
Give others a wide berth – The best way to do this, is not simply to excuse their behavior (or lack of it), but to remember the times when we haven’t kept our word. These moments are usually far from our memory when we’re agitated or angry because someone else didn’t keep their word! Yet, if we look back at the times when we have been just as hapless as they, there’s a chance to widen the space for their human shortcomings.
Give the benefit of the doubt – We really don’t know what’s happening in another person’s life that may have required a different response than they originally intended. Perhaps, something else intervened after they gave us their word; they didn’t get the information they needed in order to respond appropriately to us; they may have simply forgotten in the busy-ness of the day; their boss may have called them in and chastised them for something, their child may have gotten sick, they may have been worrying about a medical diagnosis, they may be free-falling emotionally. Any of these things might unintentionally have prevented them from keeping their word.
Give forgiveness – Anger and bad-mouthing the offender (even to ourselves) will only heighten our agitation. By giving it more attention, it grows, and we move farther away from inner peace. It will never solve the problem or cause the other person to do what we expected them to do. Forgiveness, on the other hand, will lead us to a place of graciousness and peace. In that space, forgiveness doesn’t feel so hard. When we let go of agitation and anger and simply relax into peace a curious thing happens. We seem to be suddenly aware of the times we’ve been forgiven when we haven’t deserved it, and how grateful we were that mercy was shown to us. We will long to give that mercy to others.
People will continue to disappoint us. Anger and agitation will continue to be a natural response. Yet, as soon as we notice that response, we can choose something else. We can choose to give others a wide berth, we can choose to give others the benefit of the doubt, we can choose to forgive others. And, when make one of these choices, we’ll have made a choice for our own peace and freedom.