Day of Distinction – Am I Obligated to Keep My Commitments?


Obligations are heavy, they feel irrevocable; we make a promise to someone or something outside of ourselves, who now relies on us to keep that promise. Because there is an element of accountability and outside judgment if I consider bowing out, the elements of guilt are strong and so I am likely to keep my obligations. Obligations speak to my pleaser, my insecurity, my wanting to belong. If I let down this person or the tribe, then I will find myself wandering alone in the jungle. Obligations are harder to welsh on but there’s something not quite joyful or satisfying about them.

When I commit to something – person, action, ideal I like to think it is motivated by a higher inner calling, a desire to improve a situation or myself. Commitment usually requires a goal of sorts. After careful consideration (hopefully) I am choosing to stick with this person, course of action, or state of being through thick and thin, in sickness and in health because I believe it will accomplish a good thing. The problem arises when because this is a completely inner directed choice I cheat, find myself waffling, justifying or changing my mind, most often, but not always on commitments I make to myself. I am especially prone to cheating when a commitment starts to feel like a should or an obligation.

In my perfect world, I would make only well thought out commitments and never allow them to become obligations. I would make them based on being pulled toward something better. I would remain inspired and motivated, enthusiastically embracing the opportunity to do whatever I’ve committed myself to, never would I feel burdened by feeling obligated.

How do I make that happen? I think it boils down to being willing to accept commitments as an ever-shifting state of being that we revisit and choose anew each time. The relationships that last in good and powerful ways seem to be between people who recommit continually, in the good times and when the going gets tough, sometimes out of obligation, sometimes out of love but always from of choice. We may enter into an obligation by choice, but once adopted somehow changing our mind is no longer an acceptable option.

Commitments are a process, designed to be renewed in the moment, by examining our standards, boundaries, expectations and goals and most importantly remembering why we chose to commit in the first place. Approached in this way, conscious choice gives commitment a power, joy and satisfaction that obligation can never really supply.

Onward and upward,



I love distinctions. I’m far from an expert and don’t claim to base mine on much more than how I’ve experienced a word or how it feels. I have an admitted addiction to my Thesaurus and fear that as we settle for the shortening of words and the discarding of punctuation we will lose nuance along the way. How boring will life become then! In honor of our amazing gift of words I declare Fridays the Day of Distinction, choose your words with care; they are an endangered species.

© C A Crossman and Dancing Through Life with Spirit, 2012.


About Dancing Through Life

C A Crossman is a Master Certified Retreat Coach and trained Life Coach in Santa Fe New Mexico. Her first play Having Your Cake was chosen to be presented as a staged reading in the Santa Fe Playhouse Benchwarmer's IX and she has just finished the first draft of next year's entry. Look for her upcoming books the essay collection, 52 Ways to Step Out of Your Life, mini retreats for the overworked, overwhelmed or over-scheduled and Old cats and Boys an anthology of poetry. C A is also a public speaker, using her humor and insight to address such issues as Dancing Through Life With Spirit, There are No Mistakes at the Gift Registry of Your Life, and It's Not About How Cancer Changes Your Life, It's about How Your Life Can Change Cancer.

2 responses »

  1. I always seem to create situations (obligations)which sound fine at the time, but which when the time comes closer i find that i sometimes really resent not only the obligation but the person who talked me into it. It usually gets done unless i can pass it on to someone else.

  2. I very much approve of, and benefit from, your clear distinction between obligation and commitment. There truly is joy in carrying out commitments, as opposed to just a sigh of huge relief when an obligation is over with!

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