Man is by nature a social animal. In fact society is based on the links and the relationships between people. At a very young age we learn to adapt to our surroundings to get along with the people around us. Before we even start school we learn to keep promises. Be good, behave, and mom or dad will take you out, buy you a toy; if you’re not good, Santa won’t get you presents, etc. By the time we are ready to start school we already know what it takes to keep a promise.
When I was growing up the first thing my parents taught me was how important it is to set goals in our lives, to make promises and be true to them. My dad who I miss so much, may he rest in peace, used to say “We build strength of character by making and keeping promises to ourselves and to others. The commitments we make and keep to ourselves and to others, and our integrity to those commitments, is the essence of any successful relationship in life. That is what makes possible every other positive thing in our lives, like having friends, being successful in our jobs. It is important to honor your word and keep your promise. Always try to live your life with dignity, integrity and loyalty.”
I grew up on his words and being loyal to my friends became vital for me. But it didn’t always end well. Religion was mandatory in elementary school. I remember when I was a student in grade six, the priest who taught us the course gave us too much homework, even though we had him once a week. During this one particular lesson after he assigned us homework of copying long verses and psalms from the Bible, our whole class agreed to not do the homework. On the day it was due, when asked to hand in the homework, I found out that everyone in class without exception had done it except me. Shocked as I was, when asked where my homework was, I simply said I don’t have it. I was called to stand at the blackboard and was berated of course in front of the whole class and asked to redo the work twenty times.
I didn’t understand why my classmates did what they did, nor did I care at the time. It is our response to what happens to us that hurts the most. I was not hurt. Disappointed with my friends behavior, yes one hundred percent. But I was not hurt, for as Gandhi once said:
“They cannot take away our self respect if we do not give it to them.”
I stood in the middle of the classroom with my head held high because I had kept my promise and I felt good about it. But there have been times in my life when my choices have brought consequences I would rather have lived without.
Iris Murdoch once wrote:
“There may be a time off from the call of duty, but no time off from the demand of good. The capacity to seek and enjoy the good and the true is versatile and endlessly creative.”