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When We Break Our Promises

  • Brent Rinehart
  • 2015 6 Jan
When We Break Our Promises

My 5-year-old recently reminded me of my failure to keep a promise. Apparently, I had promised her one night that we would play a game, and we never got around to it. We arrived home late, and there simply wasn’t enough time. I didn’t think much of it because she didn’t even remember before she was fast asleep.

In fact, I thought she had completely forgotten about it, until the following morning I was greeted, not with a “Good morning, Daddy,” but rather a “Daddy, you promised we would play that game.”

She was right. I did make a promise that I didn’t keep. It was a great reminder for me to be more careful with my words. I never want her to feel like she can’t trust what I say.

In my work, I’ve often adopted the saying “under-promise and over-deliver.” It’s merely an effort to consistently exceed expectations. Making promises you can’t keep never works out in the business world. But, perhaps I could stand to employ that philosophy more in my home.

We parents break a promise here and there. It’s true. But, we all know children do it quite a bit more. My daughter has over-promised and under-delivered on cleaning her room so many times that I’ve lost count.

SEE ALSO: 3 Ways to Instill a Code of Honor in Your Kids

We were all the same when we were younger. I remember in my high school days, promising my mom I would be home by curfew. Yet time and time again, I couldn’t tear myself away from my girlfriend’s house to allow enough time to make it. (I went on to marry her, so I guess those few extra minutes spent there were worth it.)

I fully expect my own kids to cause me that same kind of anxiety someday. Eventually, it only makes sense that you change roles and your children do the same things to you that you did to your parents.

While we may be well-intentioned, most of us are often guilty of saying one thing and doing another. We break promises as children, teenagers and even as parents.

Our earthly relationships aren’t the only ones that suffer from broken promises. All too often, we do the same in our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

SEE ALSO: 8 Things I'm Telling My Daughter on Her First Day of School

When we make a commitment to follow Christ, we promise to abandon our old way and live his way. He promises never to leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). I don’t know about you, but I unexplainably find myself leaving and forsaking him time and time again.

You’ve likely heard the story of Louis Zamperini, which is told in the best-selling book by Laura Hillenbrand and the new Universal Pictures film Unbroken that just released on Christmas Day. In the coverage of the film adaptation of the book, much has been written about Zamperini’s faith and how the film famously concludes prior to his conversion at a 1949 Billy Graham Crusade.

(For those of you who don’t know the full story, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has released a new documentary film called Louis Zamperini: Captured by Grace detailing Mr. Zamperini’s coming to faith in Christ in his own words.)

When Zamperini was drifting on a life raft in the Pacific Ocean for 47 days, he made a promise to God: “Get me home alive, God, and I’ll seek you. I’ll serve you.”

SEE ALSO: 6 Ways to Grow Closer to Your Spouse When Busy Schedules Pull You Apart

Zamperini recounts his experience at the 1949 Billy Graham Crusade in Captured by Grace:

“When Billy Graham quoted scripture, my life did pass before my eyes, and then he mentioned people in serious trouble almost always turn to God in prayer.  

I started to leave the tent meeting, and I felt awful guilty about my life. Yes, I had a lot of great times, a lot of great experience, a lot of escape from death, but I still didn’t like my life after the war. I came home alive. God kept his promise. I didn’t keep mine, and so I went forward and accepted Christ.”

We all make promises to God at some point. Zamperini made a promise to God at a point in his life when he was in physical danger and didn’t know where else to turn. We make promises to God when we recognize our need for a Savior and we commit our lives to Christ.

Unfortunately, in our own humanness, we fail to consistently live our lives and conduct ourselves “in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27).

While we can’t always trust ourselves to keep our part of the bargain, we can trust God and his Word.

Romans 8, long a favorite passage of mine, reminds us that “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

“…Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

And, as the old hymn says, we – just like Louis Zamperini – will surely prevail if we stand on the promises of God. We can’t be trusted, be God can be.

Brent Rinehart is a public relations practitioner and freelance writer. He blogs about the amazing things parenting teaches us about life, work, faith and more at You can also follow him on Twitter.

Publication date: January 6, 2015