By David Hegg
I have a really good friend who can often be heard complimenting something wonderful as being “to die for.” But recently I’ve been taking stock of that level of commitment. Here’s the question: What would you really be willing to die for, to give up your life in order to preserve or thwart something else?
Commitment has always been an essential value in my life. I was raised to be thoughtful before making a promise, but then once made, to be tenacious in fulfilling it. My father was big on perseverance, and he never missed a chance to push that value deeper and deeper into my soul. And it didn’t take long for me to realize that the whole idea of commitment presupposed that, at some point, the commitment would entail continuing when you felt like quitting, that commitment would eventually come at a cost.
There’s an old motivational humor piece that illustrates the essence of true commitment. If you order ham and eggs for breakfast, here’s what you’ll find: the chicken made a contribution, but the pig made a commitment!
Today, commitment, or perhaps better, the value of perseverance under trial and pain, is in short supply. It doesn’t surprise us anymore when marriages end because one of the spouses “just doesn’t feel it anymore.” We just shrug when a highly paid athlete decides to boycott the pre-season because he no longer thinks making millions is enough of a commitment on the part of his team. And it has become commonplace for employees to jump from company to company based solely on how much money they can make. What ever happened to loyalty, and commitment?
From my seat in the bleachers of society here’s what I see. I believe we are losing an important value today that undergirds the whole area of commitment. That value is the good of the many being of greater importance than the pleasure of self.
Commitment will mean that, at some point, I will need to keep my promise simply because it is better for others if I do, even if it hurts me. That’s true of marriage and it is especially true if you have children. The best thing a father can do for his kids is keep his commitment to their mother, to stay in the marriage and consistently be a loving, providing, protecting husband.
Unfortunately, we are watching our society become one where the individual trumps the group. A few years ago we were told to look out for No. 1, to pull our own strings, and to focus our lives on our own well-being. Well, guess what? We’ve gotten really good at all that, and now we have a society that is increasingly self-centered and pain-averse. If the well-being of the individual is the highest societal value, then the society is certain to dissolve into a million parts. As soon as the good of the group brings pain to the individual, most will opt out of their commitment in order to pursue personal happiness.
Only as the individuals are hardy enough to put self aside in favor of doing the hard things it takes to be a successful nation will any society flourish.
Right now, on so many fronts, we are at a crucial decision point. And the decision isn’t political or ideological. I think it is personal and ethical. It is a decision that each of us has to make, and then become courageously committed to. It is a decision to be people who are willing to make individual sacrifices for the good of others, for the good of the marriage, the family, the neighborhood, and the country. And of course you would expect me to preach this kind of thing given that my Boss once left glory to take on flesh so that He could sacrifice His own life in order to bring forgiveness and eternal life to us.
Now that’s what I mean by commitment.
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.