Let me start off with a story of a disciple of Confucius, Zeng Zi 曾子.
Once upon a time, when Zeng’s wife was all set to go to the market place, their son put up a tearful scene, insisting on following his mother to the market. “If you behave and stay at home until I get back, I will slaughter a pig and make you your favourite pork dish” said the mother to the son, and of course the son, in anticipation of his favourite dish, stopped crying and the mother went to the market place alone.
When she returned home, Zeng was ready to slaughter a pig and his wife stopped him, saying that she was merely kidding with the child. In response Zeng told his wife:”A child is not to be kidded like that”. A child learns from his parents, if he is told lies by his parents, he will too end up telling lies. Zeng also said that if parents lie to their children, they will not trust them anymore, and how are they then to educate their children?
Of course, Zeng slaughtered the pig and made his son’s favourite dish.
If you read history or literature, you will find that in most cultures around the globe, people were taught to keep and honour their promises. Aristotle said “A promise made must be a promise kept” ; Song Dynasty poet Wang An Shi said “A promise weighs more than a hundred catties”. Until now, promises can be enforced in a court of law.
But, have you ever wondered why promises matter?
Promises matter, simply because, when a promise is broken, it communicates the message to the other party that he or she is not valued. When more than one promise is broken, the other person simply regards you as a liar. For some governments, they are not only liars, but chronic, habitual liars.
It is as important to stay true to yourself as to the people you have made promises with. It is common decency to only make a promise if you intend to keep it. Not making a promise is far better than making but failing to keep one. However, some promises may be broken on good faith and there are cases where you can’t keep a promise with legitimate excuses, because we never know what is going to happen next. Even if the person accepts your reasons and apologies, there will always be a little prick in his perception towards you.
In short, try as hard as possible to keep your promise, if you do fail to do so, sincerely ask for forgiveness, but the damage is done. A broken promise cannot me amended by a new promise.