POINTS TO PONDER

COMMIT TO BEING COMMITTED

Whenever you volunteer to be involved with any movement or cause, you’re often asked for a commitment to their goals and aspirations. But what does it mean to be committed? Psychologists tell us that commitment represents the motivation to stay in a relationship and to work at improving it. Commitment promotes relationship longevity by motivating people to see, think, and act in ways that help sustain a relationship.

Psychologists John Michael, Natalie Sebanz, and Günther Knoblich from the Department of Cognitive Science, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary, tell us that the phenomenon of  commitment is a cornerstone of human social life. Commitments make individuals’ behavior predictable in the face of fluctuations in their desires and interests, thereby facilitating the planning and coordination of joint actions involving multiple agents. Moreover, commitment also facilitates cooperation by making individuals willing to contribute to joint activities to which they wouldn’t be willing to contribute if they, and others, were not committed to doing so – to participate in a political demonstration, for example, or to help clean up after an accident in the kitchen.

In a public science essay, Jacy Black writes that commitment in relationship psychology is a construct that is defined differently depending on the nature of the study. It entails a concern for the future and stability of the relationship, along with the desire for the connection to continue. Though typically, commitment is seen as a positive thing, note this is not always the case. Commitment encompasses a wide variety of factors that bind individuals together in a relationship, whether a relationship is healthy.

Then Mel Schwartz (L.C.S.W.) notes that the word commitment usually evokes a strong sense of intention and focus. It typically is accompanied by a statement of purpose or a plan of action. Very often, we utilize this word in regard to proclamations we may make about the seriousness of our relationships. For example, “I’m in a committed relationship,” or “I’m completely committed to this relationship.” In such circumstances, what exactly are we saying? We take it for granted that the word or the expression means the same thing to all of us. I can assure you that it doesn’t. These offerings of relationship commitments are typically statements about behavior or proposed outcomes. For instance, the institution of marriage is most identified with the pledge of commitment. It is an undertaking of legal vows to substantiate our pledge to fidelity, if not continued love. However, statistics reveal that when we formalize our commitments through marriage, there is as much likelihood of failure as success. After all, more than half of marriages experience infidelity, and we’re all aware of the divorce rate. So, if our most honored commitments aren’t kept, perhaps we need to understand why that is so.

We also learn that there are commitment issues or a fear of commitment. Commitment is a term often used in reference to romantic or religious relationships, but a person who finds it hard to commit may experience this difficulty in other areas of life. Individuals with commitment issues may experience mental distress and emotional difficulty when faced with situations that require dedication to a particular long-term goal. When an individual’s fear of commitment leads to the development of anxiety or other mental health concerns, a therapist, counselor, or other mental health professionals can typically help that person address and work through the issues. Some individuals may also wish to explore strategies to overcome commitment issues, especially when they have an impact on one’s relationships and/or daily function.

Then Kendra Cherry, author of the “Everything Psychology Book,” asks, have you ever found yourself changing your mind in the middle of a purchase, only to feel pressured to stick to your earlier decision to buy the item? For example, have you ever agreed to buy a car, only for the salesman to change the terms of the sale right before you sign the paperwork? Was it easy to walk away, or did you feel a sense of pressure and obligation to stick to your original agreement? Psychologists refer to this as the rule of commitment or norm of commitment. So, what exactly is the rule of commitment, and how does it affect our behavior? The rule of commitment is a social norm that marketers and salespeople often use to get consumers to make purchases. According to this norm, we typically feel obligated to follow through with something after making a public commitment.

Once we’ve made some open pledge to something, we feel both social pressure and internal psychological pressure to stick to it. Why? We like to feel that we are consistent in our behaviors and beliefs, so once we make some type of declaration, we often feel that we must stand by our original decision. Sometimes this norm of commitment can work in your favor. If you announce that you are on a diet or trying to get in shape, announcing your plans to friends and family might help you feel pressure to stick to your commitment and achieve your goals. In other cases, this pressure to stick to your original declaration might lead you to make purchasing decisions that might not necessarily be in your best interest.

So, what does the Bible say about commitment? First, the Psalmist David concluded that we should commit everything we do to the Lord. Trust Him to help us do it, and He will.[1] Then King Solomon had this advice: we commit our activities to the Lord, and our plans will succeed.[2] Then he added that uncommitted people care only about themselves; they lash out at common sense.[3]

Then the Apostle Paul urges us to commit ourselves to do what is good. We will reap a harvest of blessings at just the right time if we don’t give up.[4] Not only that, but Paul confessed that he was committed to this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, he pressed on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through the Anointed One Jesus, is calling all of us.[5]

Finally, to young Timothy, Paul had these words of encouragement, commit your best to be the kind of person God will accept, and give yourself to Him. Be the kind of worker who has no reason to be ashamed of their work, one who applies the true teaching in the correct way.[6] Perhaps the great apostle was inspired by the words of the Master, who said, “I am the light of the world. If you commit yourself to me, you won’t have to walk in darkness because you will have the Light that leads to life.”[7]


[1] Psalm 37:5

[2] Proverbs 16:3

[3] Ibid. 18:1

[4] Galatians 6:9

[5] Philippians 3:13-14

[6] 2 Timothy 2:15

[7] John 8:12

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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