Question 153



Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB

July 2012

One major component of modern life that is missing is an understanding ofcommitment.  What does it mean to be committed to a person, or to a great cause?  

The fault-free and high divorce rate today is a clear example of the lack of commitment. The scarcity of vocations to the priesthood and religious life is another clear example of this lack.

To commit yourself to another person means that you are making a deep and wide-ranging decision to be associated with that person, as in a marriage.  Since we don’t know all that the future holds, we accept the terms of commitment: “for better or worse, in good times and bad, in good health and sickness … I will remain committed to you, until death do us part.”

Some people ask, “Why should we ever make a commitment?  There are too many contingencies in life.  Situations change and people change.  How can I be committed to any one person, or to a single cause?”  These attitudes are very prevalent today.  We make commitments because that is the way God designed human nature. 

Our freedom must be exercised by making many choices.  There are good choices and bad choices; there are even horrible choices (“freedom of choice”).  We are obliged to learn how to make good choices, which always advance the good, while exposing and resisting the bad.  

There are small choices that we make everyday, and huge choices, made only infrequently, which encompass thousands of smaller choices.  Examples of huge choices are: one’s major work or career in life, e.g., as an educator, professional or career person, as a priest or religious; which person I shall marry for my lifetime partner, which religious denomination I affiliate with, etc.  These are all commitments with wide ramifications.

Why is it good to make a commitment?  

Because a commitment forces me to exercise my freedom at its deepest level.  Small choices operate at the surface level of one’s consciousness.  Commitments operate in the depth of one’s consciousness and permeate the entire personality.

Our choices and our human acts determine us in our character.  In this way we are self-determining.  By my many and repeated choices I become the person I am.  If we do not make far-reaching and profound choices, then we remain as a shallow person. We become the persons of our many choices, and especially of our primary commitment.

Commitments force us to deepen our humanity.  Being a husband, father and family man forces a man to enter into many relationships and to deal with a wide variety of problems.  These demand adjustments, patience, and a spirit of generosity.  All this is character building.  As a relationship grows, so also do the friendship and the joys that follow.  If a person refuses to make a commitment, then he refuses to enter into the great mystery of life, which is full of unforeseen challenges, but also full of unexpected joys and successes.

When we face new problems, then we are forced to step out of our comfort zones and develop new dimensions of our personality.  We become richer, more mature, more fully developed human persons.

Some people refuse to make commitments because they do not want to close off all their options.  “What if someone/thing better comes along?”  This means, in effect, that you refuse to make the total personal gift of self here and now.  You refuse to respond to the real good that is present to you, waiting for your response.

It is good for parents to commit themselves to their sons and daughters.   A child needs unconditional love.  A child discovers his/her personal worth and dignity by this.  He feels loved, cherished just for the being the unique person he is, and that is the basis of his security, his self-esteem.

A growing boy or girl will make mistakes, will embarrass his parents, or simply will try their patience.  This is par for the course of human relations in a family.  But the young person learns from his/her mistakes and corrections.  The parents learn how to parent and also something about patience.  Real love is often self-sacrificial.  You suffer something when you do what is best for another.

Raising a young person to adulthood is a great achievement, both for the parents and for the young adult.  This takes at least eighteen years, and demands consistency and reliability.  We commit ourselves to long-term goals.  The commitment carries us through the many obstacles along the way.

It is good for spouses to commit themselves to each other.  The only proper response to a person is love.  Love is seen in one’s willingness (choice) to be totally devoted to another person.  To love means to regard the good (well-being) of the other as one’s own personal good.  In marriage, a man and a woman become spouses – two people, of complimentary sexes -- who are totally devoted to each other.  There is no greater form of friendship than true marriage.

When a couple “falls in love” and wants to share their lives together into the unknown future, then they make a choice to marry.  This is a lifetime commitment.  There is an emotional component to this, but the dominant components are full knowledge and full consent. 

Love is a choice.  Marriage is a decision, and this decision is renewed day after day.  The original glow of emotions will fade away, but the core of the marriage, that is their relationship based upon a choice, endures.  As God designed marriage, the relationship is meant to grow, deepen and ripen throughout the entire lifespan of the couple.  The relationship is to get better as the years progress.

When a man and a woman are committed to their relationship, then remarkable things happen.  They can sustain jolts and unforeseen crises because they are confident that each one is dedicated to their relationship, and to doing whatever it takes to sustain it. They confidently rely upon God and the support He promised them at their wedding vows. 

It takes a lifetime to fully complete the potential of a marriage.  What sustains the marriage is the commitment they make during the wedding vows, and then renew every day with little acts of tenderness and caring.

Why make a commitment?  

We were designed by God to make commitments.  They assist us in becoming fully developed, rich persons.  That is why we should make them.

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