Dec 1, 2009
I am currently in the process of looking for a new cell phone. I am eligible for a free upgrade with my current phone plan, and since the battery on my current phone is rapidly wearing out, I decided that it was time to start looking for a new one.
If you have been to a phone store lately, you will know the wide array of choices that are currently available. Even after browsing through the options online and making a visit to a nearby store, I was hesitant to make a decision. There were so many choices, and I wanted to make sure I picked the perfect phone. After all, this is going to be the phone I will use for two whole years until I am eligible for my next free upgrade!
Of course, when I stop to think about it, I quickly realize that a new phone is nothing to agonize over. Two years spent with a mediocre phone is certainly not the end of the world, and basic functionality is more important than a plethora of features. So why was I so scared to commit?
My hesitance to commit to something as simple as a phone is common in a culture that makes it easy to avoid committing to anything. Cell phone companies allow you to pay month-by-month instead of committing to a year-long contract. Colleges allow you to add or drop classes half-way through a semester in case you change your mind about them. The average college student will change majors several times in the course of his or her college career. In addition, almost anything you buy today comes with a refund so you can always return it if you decide you don’t like it. And I regularly see young people making tentative plans for an evening or weekend, only to change them when a better offer comes along.
Fear of commitment has taken over our society and the results are catastrophic. A few weeks ago, I came across a shocking article on a major news website that suggested that it was no longer reasonable to expect couples to stay married until death do them part. The “experts” interviewed for the article asserted that a lifetime commitment between spouses may not be a realistic expectation in today’s world. Such monogamy, they said, was a thing of the past, merely a useful social convention that is on its way out and will soon vanish even as an ideal.
The “experts” compared the ability to remain faithful for life to the ability to play a Beethoven violin concerto, ice skate well, or learn a new language, portraying it as a skill possessed by some but certainly not a feat that could reasonably be expected of everyone. The article then went on to suggest that Americans take adultery too seriously and should be more open and welcoming to the idea of infidelity within a marriage.
The article appalled me as it portrayed human beings as unable to resist sexual temptation or to choose a life of fidelity to a single spouse. Yet the truth remains that 50% of American marriages do not last. Prenuptial agreements are also common and are indicative of the attitude that the marriage might not last. Our culture has made it easy to avoid making and honoring commitments, and this shift in mindset has deeply wounded our society.
Serious commitments are a part of life. God wants us to make – and honor - a serious commitment to live Christian lives for Him. More specifically, we are called to commit to a certain vocation, a lifetime commitment through good times and bad. This is not only for marriage, but also for consecrated and religious life as well. No matter what our vocation, we are called to make a commitment and see it through to the end, persevering when difficult times come, and not running away at the first sign of struggle.
Am I saying that you should never change your mind about anything, switch your major, or change your cell phone company? No. Of course not. But I think it can be insightful to a) recognize the fear of commitment that pervades every aspect of our culture today, b) see how this failure to commit causes serious problems in society, and c) realize how to distinguish the most important commitments in life from those that are secondary.
Commitment doesn’t begin with marriage or religious vows. Try practicing commitment as we enter this season of Advent. Commit to strengthening your prayer life in a very concrete, specific way every day over the next four weeks. Commit to being more involved in a volunteer organization. Follow through on the commitments that you make, building up self-discipline in the process. Help change the mindset of today’s culture into one where commitments are honored and people follow through on their promises.