My first post on commitment generated several comments and the topic is one I frequently ponder. In recent readings and listenings (of podcast interviews), I’ve gleaned a few snippets worthy of contemplation.
Commitment occurs in a context, and for people who end up in an environment or relationship that is not conducive to their thriving, commitment — in the conventional sense — is impossible. Yet, most of us go around assuming that if a person has a particular job, living space, or partner, that they’ve freely chosen that situation and our brains start to associate this person with their circumstances. But what if they talked themselves into the career, the condo or the cutie in an attempt to belong? Then, when things change, we might shake our heads at their lack of commitment, when maybe what they are doing is freeing themselves.
This passage is from I Will Not Die an Unlived Life by Dawna Markova:
I have struggled with defiance my whole life. I wanted desperately to fit in someplace, so I tried to mold myself into a submissive, “good” member of society. But, inevitably, the life-force within me wilted, and I’d be fighting some authority figure. If I couldn’t find a boss, I’d create one just so I had somebody to push against. Then I’d feel ashamed, an outcast, because I was abnormal, too stubborn to commit. What I learned from Parker [Palmer] is that we cannot all do everything. It is not in the nature of every seed to be an oak tree, an eggplant, and a gladiolus. It is not in my nature to bloom within a greenhouse. I am a wildflower, a weed perhaps. I need open and untamed spaces to sprout. I need to ask the questions and think the thoughts that others overlook.
And what if a person is committed to a way of being which, unlike a particular person or place, is not visible?
My commitment is actually not, first of all to my relationship, it’s actually, for me, personally, it’s more towards the experience of freedom, or open-heartedness.
He’s been married for many years, too. But there is a huge difference between a commitment to “being (or getting, or staying) married”, a situation common amongst those eager for a “permanent” relationship, and committing to a particular person (whether or not that takes the form of marriage or lifelong partnership), or being committed to being loving, generally. I can imagine a situation in which a possessive or insecure spouse might make it difficult for their partner to share their open-heartedness with others or to do an activity alone that gives them juice. What if, shackled by the insecure spouse, the life-force of the open-hearted partner starts to wilt?
If there is one thing that is worth committing to, it’s the thriving of each person. Often, thriving can occur in a context that “reads” like a conventional commitment. And for some people, their thriving, or attempts to thrive, will look very different. Maybe they are committed to something we can’t see or even perceive. Maybe they are committed to not giving up on themselves.