True manhood is marked by the ability to make and keep commitments. Of course the most significant of these commitments would be one that would last a lifetime, which would be a man’s commitment to his vocation—the priesthood, religious life, or marriage. This very trait is the one that is sorely needed in men today. How often do we hear about men falling down on commitments, being unfaithful to their wives or not doing the thing they said they would do?
At 45 years old, I am a member of Generation X. One of the marks that we are known for is a lack of commitment. Let’s look at some of the changes from previous generations where ours may have not been trained in an atmosphere of commitment:
- Mothers began working outside the home more and more not making the commitment to raise their own children.
- Divorce became more prevalent as parents failed in their commitment to each other in marriage to raise their children in a two-parent stable home.
- Priests, nuns, and religious left their orders in record numbers abandoning their vows to God and the Church.
- Employers softened on their commitment to their workers where lay-offs became a common occurrence and pension plans were weakened marking the end of lifetime tenure with a company.
You can probably think of others, but I think these are the most common. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not making any excuses for us. But we as a society have to realize we reap what we sow.
Yes, this is the environment I grew up in. I was blessed to have a two-parent home, but I saw my share of lack of commitment all around me. The striking thing to me is the amount of selfishness that drives it all. The next thing I notice is that despite the selfish motives behind the lack of commitment, in the end the uncommitted one is still unhappy. What many fail to comprehend is the difference between misery and temporary discomfort.
Discomfort is a part of life. We are human; we get tired and weak. Donald Trump, well known real estate magnate and entrepreneur, said “your higher self lies outside your comfort zone.” This is what Christ calls us to, our higher self. Commitment causes us to keep moving forward in the face of pain or discomfort. Commitment causes us to work through difficulty in our relationships instead of ending them. It causes us to seek to understand our wives and their needs when they get in the way of our desires or selfishness. Commitment causes us to pass on doing things for ourselves to be present to our children and develop a relationship with them so that we can guide them on through life.
In the end, when we lay aside our selfishness out of commitment, we arrive at a place called contentment or joy. I remember Mother Angelica saying on her EWTN live show that happiness and pleasure are things of this world, but joy is heavenly, a spiritual experience. Christ said “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”(Matt 10:39) This is not to say that we are called to be miserable. We have to be true to ourselves and pursue that which will be truly fulfilling in the unique way God has made each of us. It is a call to maturity, a call away from the childish pursuits of pleasures toward responsible self-giving love. It is a call to make wise choices based on logic and reason and a rejection of making decisions based on emotion and desire.
Commitment takes time; it is not something that comes easy. But it lays the foundation for a solid and firm future. It is like the foundation of a building, of a home. This reminds us of what Christ said about being wise. Those who listened to His words and acted on them are like the wise man who built his house on rock; those who did not act on them were like a fool who built his house on sand. (cf Matt 7:24-27) Notice our Lord says the one who ACTS is the one who is wise. It is not sufficient to listen or to learn or to possess knowledge. We must ACT on it if we wish to be wise and not foolish.
Commitment requires action. It’s easy to talk a good show, but it takes a man to back up his words with action. Little boys tell stories full of fantasy about what they will do. Women pick up on this quickly. A boy tells her what she wants to hear in order to have his way with her. A wise woman will require him to prove himself to be a real man, to make a commitment to her, a lifetime commitment before she makes a commitment to him. The action of commitment doesn’t just last for a day or a week or a month. It continues for the required amount of time to meet the task. Sometimes that may be a year, sometimes 10 years, and yes, sometimes a lifetime.
So, it’s important to know what things we should make a commitment to and what things can stay open-ended. This requires us to make priorities in life.
God bless you+